Shippers, and Tumblrs, and GIFs! Oh, my!

This is how I put it two weeks ago, over on Tumblr.

Oh, fandom…

…you sucked me in so hard.

I feel like I hit on something that I didn’t even know I missed and it keeps waking me up on so many levels. And I’m so, so late to the party, and the conversations that happen don’t involve me, and when I say stuff it goes unanswered, and I feel like I need to do some spectacularly awesome shit to get noticed and welcomed, but then what do you do when other people have had years to do the spectacular and awesome stuff long before you (and have indeed done it in ways that blow my mind and crash my heart again and again), and really I’m just terribly impatient because I want to belong so hard.

So I spend hours and hours and hours trying to gobble up enough knowledge of fanalysis and meta to be able to understand what people are saying, to see the connections, to learn the new language that is fanspeak (and Tumblr-speak), to offer a comment here and there that I so hope is not stupid and yawn-worthy in the hope that someone might notice it, to enter into a dialogue where someone actually says something back to me.

And I know it takes time and that doing the work is just how it goes. But you know how it is when you found something that makes you say YES YES YES OH MY GOD YES all over, and it just slammed smack into that soft place you almost forgot you even had, and it hurts but in a good way, and it makes stuff pour out, and you can’t sleep because of all the THOUGHTS (and let’s not forget the FEELS. Let’s not ever forget the FEELS), and you just want to jump into it and hold it and not be mature and sensible and wait until later?

jumphold

That, fandom, is how I feel right now.

But there’s more to say, of course.

Because only a few days later, conversations were happening. And I didn’t do any crazy spectacular shit to make that happen, except tell a few people they hit a nerve or sparked a bunch of brain cells with what they wrote and keep putting my own thoughts out there. Apparently, it’s not that difficult to be welcomed into the Glee/Klaine fandom.

So now I’m thinking about being a fan. Because, you see, I’ve never been one before. At least not in this way, as part of a fandom.

Sure, during my teens in the 1980s I had some popstar posters up on my wall, and eventually a few punk band t-shirts in my wardrobe, but I don’t remember ever being seriously all over anyone or anything. On the contrary, the kind of fan behavior that was described to me in youth magazines (screaming, fainting, holding up signs that said “I love you, [celebrity name]!” or collecting autographs) seemed pretty silly most of the time. Perhaps I saw through the whole media machine around stars very early on. Or perhaps I was just a bit more cynical than others my age. At any rate, I never wanted to meet a star for a minute or three just to be able to say I met them. My fan relationship to the stars I liked was very solitary and all-in-my-head, and it mostly consisted of fantasizing that the male stars I liked would be my boyfriends and dreaming that I would one day be as cool and desirable as the female stars I liked (because apparently there wasn’t a single real boy around who thought that I was girlfriend material).

Things changed at age sixteen when I became majorly obsessed with The Rocky Horror (Picture) Show, an obsession that lasted for several years (and I still have flare-ups of it quite regularly). I have recently told the story about being in the Rocky Horror Show when we did it as a school play in 1989 and in another Rocky Horror production that ran for almost a year at a semi-professsional theater about two years later. The entire Rocky Horror experience turned out to be basically the foundation upon which I built an idea of my body as an erotic and powerful thing (instead of an awkward and undesirable one) and a rather early, matter-of-fact acceptance of many strange desires (even if I only discovered most of my own strange desires much later). This fan experience was a little less solitary than the previous ones because I had a best friend who shared my obsession at a slightly lesser degree and who found Tim Curry as Frank N. Furter as hot as I did. And I had a bunch of fellow actors who also spent a lot of time with that story and these characters in our minds and bodies. Thus, shitloads of improvised role-playing went on among us between arriving at school/the theater to put on costumes and make-up and going on stage, or after the show before we had fully transitioned back into our everyday selves. There was a lot of blurring of the boundaries between characters and people, and it was exciting, melodramatic, hot, silly, heartbreaking, and probably rather unprofessional. And I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

But, see, we had no Internet. We only had libraries and footnotes in books and a little bit of merchandise like librettos and comic books and trading cards that had found their way to Germany. And the first Rocky Horror Picture Show VHS came out in 1990, when video was still very expensive and having a VCR was still the exception. So we had to wait for the movie to be shown at a cinema (and there were no weekly screenings anywhere near where I lived) or student club, aired on TV and otherwise make do with the vinyl record that had the entire film complete with audience participation callbacks (there are some RHPS quotes that remain part of my active vocabulary to this day). That meant that learning all the nuances and tidbits and details that fans obsess about happened rather slow, but it also was a huge event to find (out) something, anything new back then. Since I was really very obsessed, I even dreamed of joining the RHPS fan club, but it was based in New York, and what was the point of that when I was in Germany, so I never sent in my application letter with my lovingly handdrawn RHPS title font on the envelope. In short: this fan/fandom experience was slow, and very local, and still rather solitary, especially after the plays had ended.

The next relevant fan experience happened when I came across Tribe 8 and other queercore bands in my mid-twenties, which resulted in yet another mostly solitary fixation. This one was mostly about keeping me sane in an environment that kept telling me that people like me didn’t exist and that I therefore couldn’t exist, either, at least not as what I declared myself to be then. It also helped with the intense loneliness I experienced during some of those years due to being “the only one like me.” At times I felt like I existed solely on a few records and a handful of zines. And even years later, when I heard Tribe 8 were splitting up, I cried my heart out like I had been suddenly left by an enourmously important soulmate and seriously considered flying over the Atlantic solely to see their last show with money I didn’t really have.

After that, I got a taste of secondhand collective fandom when my Beloved started writing Harry Potter slash and spent a lot of time interacting in the respective fandom. I did a bit of beta-ing on some of his stories and ended up liking all things Harry Potter a lot better than I originally did (which only goes to prove that things often get a lot more interesting if only you look at them closely enough). In fact, I even started to find Alan Rickman as Snape hot because of the way my Beloved had written him (okay, that and Rickman’s voice). And I say that as someone who usually doesn’t count (cis)men among the objects of her desire. Anyhow, that’s when I learned about the fanfiction community, and fanvideos and fanart and GIFs and all these things. My punk-grown, DIY heart was of course delighted about all of this, even though I didn’t participate in this community myself (apart from reading some great stories that only deepened my fascination for Snape and Snarry and enriched every subsequent reading of the books or watching of the movies).

And now, after a long break from anything even remotely fannish, there’s Glee. Over which I stumbled by way of an email with a YouTube link to “Teenage Dream” sung by the Warblers. Without any previous awareness of the existence of either Glee or the song, I immediately read it as the beginning of a love story that I just knew I had to find out more about. So I started watching the old episodes and kept doing so, mostly for Kurt (and Blaine). At first, Glee was just something nice to watch after long and frustrating work days. After a while it started nudging that dream of overcoming my fear of singing in earnest when someone else could hear me. And then I somehow stumbled across Letters from Titan with its brilliant and detailed fanalysis of Glee in general and Kurt and Blaine in particular, and had my mind blown wide open by it. Then there were other thinky blogs about Glee (such as Deconstructing Glee or Don’t Turn It Off! or Biyuti) that blew it open even further. And then there was Tumblr and I started participating by reblogging other people’s posts with my own comments or publishing little bits of my unfinished thoughts and random observations as I watched the whole series for a second time.

So, in the last three weeks, I obsessed about several scenes involving Kurt and Blaine, watched them over and over again, examined my multiple identifications with Kurt, searched for details of wardrobes and set dressings, read lots of thinky posts that made me think in return, and was extraordinarily touched moved by all of it. Which was much intensified by finally having an actual fan community that was accessible for me in real-time (if only virtually) to share these things with. There were other people who shared my obsessions, people who liked my posts, people who reblogged my stuff and started following me, people who told me they appreciated my thinking. There was communication, and exchange, and I was floored by the effect it had on me. Because, as you have seen, this is totally a first for me (did I mention I’ll be forty next year?). And then Ryan Murphy got Twitter and released the Kurt/Blaine box scene and I was there to witness all the madness of fandom that went with it. And it was glorious.

I still feel very late to the party, especially since some people seem to be ready to de-obsess about Glee already, now that season 4 is around the corner. While I am still giving myself a learning-by-doing crash course in using Tumblr (next lesson: how to be at peace with NOT reading every single new post on my dashboard), catching up on all most many of the wonderfully thinky blog posts that have already been written about Glee, and slowly exploring the world of fanfiction to see what kinds I click with and why. In other words, I have only just started as a fan in this fandom, although I can tell that the first surge of madness is ebbing a little. Which is probably good because there are things I need to do, and I can only keep up such intense emotions for so long before I need a break. And they usually return pretty soon anyway.

And this is really what fandom, to me, is all about: unapologetic, shameless emotionality. Squees and feels and asdflfdkgjdljig. Unrestrained gushing, squealing, and flailing. Sitting in front of a computer screen, watching/reading something, crying about it, and telling the world. And I finally get why this is such a glorious thing. And of course that’s also why fan culture of this kind is so often so much ridiculed and assumed to be something only teenage girls engage in. But that’s sexism (and ageism) for you, and people who have no idea what they’re missing. And I’m soooo glad that I’m not one of them anymore.

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To the people who complain about no kiss in the Glee ‘box scene’

Okay, this needs some backstory for the readers who aren’t obsessing about Glee like I currently am. Fellow Gleeks and Klaine shippers: feel free to skip ahead. Everyone else: long introduction is long. But necessary for context.

As you may have gathered, there is a gay male couple on Glee, Kurt Hummel and Blaine Anderson. In the two seasons of their story arc, they have kissed on-screen exactly three times, in two different episodes. There have been some additional intense looks, a couple of hugs, some dancing, and a bit of hand holding on top of that. So, yeah, people at their school know they’re both gay and a couple, but the school as such is not exactly queer-friendly (or glee club-friendly, at that). There has been bullying, both verbal and physical.

Fans have complained loudly and consistently about the unequal amount of displays of affection Kurt and Blaine got compared to the other major but straight couple of the show (Rachel and Finn). And rightly so.

Anyhow. As far as I can reconstruct it, before the episode “Extraordinary Merry Christmas” (3×09) aired, there was a promo trailer with a scene where Blaine gives Kurt a box with a ring made out of gum wrappers. And then it wasn’t in the episode. Cut for time, or something. So fans begged and wailed and raged and did what fans do in these situations. And eventually it was announced that the script of that episode was to be auctioned off for the benefit of a charity that gives meals to people with HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses. Two fans spread the word on Tumblr and asked for donations to win the script. At $4.200, the script was theirs, and fans kept donating to the project until that number was more than thrice as high. The deleted scene script was put on the internet as well, so everyone could see what we had all missed. And it was wonderful. Sappy, cheesy, and romantic to boot.

So fans kept begging, wailing and raging for the actual scene to be released. After all, it had been filmed and edited already. One day, Glee creator Ryan Murphy joined Twitter. And shortly thereafter, he announced that he would release the scene as soon as he got 500.000 followers (he had about 50.000 at that point, I believe). So fans did their thing, getting him up to 100.000 within only a day, with the help of many, many multiple accounts. And then Ryan Murphy probably decided that he’d rather have actual followers than half a million fake accounts created by manic fans (or maybe he really was moved by the love and greed of the Gleeks), so he released the scene early.

And this is why I can write about it now. After watching it more times than I care to admit. But see for yourselves:

Of course, the Glee fandom, especially the Klaine shippers (= fans of the Kurt/Blaine relationship), has gone mad over this (if the very small part of it that I witness via my Tumblr is any indication, and it usually is). Many interesting observations about parallels and micro-continuity were made, wonderful GIFs were created, and most of all there was a general roar made of squee and many, many tears of joy.

One comment that appeared over and over again, however, stuck out for me because whenever I read it, I thought: No. And this is what this blog post is all about.

The way I see it, a kiss in that scene would have been wrong, wrong, WRONG. And I say that as a hopeless Klaine shipper.

And Kurt’s reaction to Blaine’s promise to kiss him “whenever and wherever” he wants tells you all the reasons why there wasn’t a kiss.

They’re at their still-not-particularly-gay-friendly school. In a hallway where a constant stream of people walks past while they’re speaking. Even having this conversation in this place is a risk already (anyone up to writing a dystopian box scene interrupted by an anti-gay slur or worse?). Not to mention the kind of hug that IS in the scene.

And remember? Blaine has a history of being gay-bashed (“they beat the living crap out of us”) so it seems very realistic that he wouldn’t feel comfortable with kissing Kurt in this kind of situation. Even if he has already shown that he has the courage to be more open about their relationship in other, less open (yeah, I know, the irony…) spaces (e.g. the prom where enough teachers were around who would not tolerate violence, the Lima Bean coffee shop where the bullies don’t seem to go to, or the gay bar). And that he’s willing to stand up to bullies in general. But he doesn’t want to risk an attack in THIS situation, when their hearts are so, so open and they’re both so, so vulnerable.

And Kurt knows these things. Because I imagine they talk about these things in private, even if we don’t see in on-screen. Or maybe just because he’s smart and pays attention to Blaine. Anyhow. He knows. And that’s why he looks around when Blaine makes that promise. To assess the risk of asking for a kiss because he really, really wants one, right there, right then. But he also loves Blaine and he knows that you don’t go and exploit a promise like this just because you can.

So, that feeling of not-getting-a kiss-even-if-you-very-very-badly-want-one that all the people feel who have posted this kind of statement? Is exactly how it feels for people IN THAT KIND OF SITUATION.

Which is why it’s absolutely RIGHT that there is NO KISS.

It only makes me ship Klaine even harder. Because they’re REAL.

“Because of the layers.”

This entry started with a comment I made on this post on Letters from Titan. Since I couldn’t stop thinking about the issues I had started to verbalize there, I decided to do what works best for me in those situations: talk about it. So here I give you my first post in English on this blog, and my first post about Glee. I have a strong suspicion that this is only the beginning…

As I said before, the butch and I are currently obsessing about Glee a bit (me more than him). We’re watching all episodes for a second time, and I’ve recently discovered some really read-worthy blogs that are wonderfully thinky about aspects of Glee. So I’m catching up on that end, too. I’ve also been sucked into Glee-related Tumblr blogs, mostly from Kurt/Blaine fans, and have found myself watching GIFs of the same kiss (their first one, from “Original Song”) over and over again until the wee hours of the morning. So far, I’ve only read a few fanfics, but I’m pretty sure I will get back to more of that eventually. And I can’t stop thinking about Glee. For me, that’s an extraordinary level of fan involvement which I experienced last with the Rocky Horror Picture Show (starting, oh, eighteen years ago).

Right now, I switch between moments of believing that Glee is absolute genius, especially in the way it depicts Kurt’s story arc (including the Karofsky story) and his relationship to Blaine (this happens most of all when I read Letters from Titan until my brain starts to crackle with happy fireworks of neuronal joy due to all the thinkiness and detail obsession and her seemingly random webs of associations that suddenly aren’t random at all anymore) and the sober realization that Glee does oh-so-many things terribly, terribly wrong, especially when it comes to its female and/or of-color characters and the madness of Glee‘s random story arcs in general (that happens a lot when I read Glee Critic, for example) or the unequal treatment of gay and straight relationships on the show (likewise with Fabfemmeboy). And don’t get me started on Finchel.

But even despite my awareness of the many problems Glee has, I can’t help being crazy over many of Kurt’s and Kurt and Blaine’s moments. What can I say? They move me. After all, they are exactly what brought me to Glee in the first place (and it’s the one thing I really, really owe Mensa for because someone shared a link to the video of Teenage Dream sung by the Warblers in “Never been kissed” (2×06) on their QueerSIG mailing list).

 

And then I watched the entire series up to wherever they were in April last year. And kept watching. And remained fascinated by Kurt (and Blaine). At some point, I noticed that I was obviously identifying with Kurt, and I’m partly writing this entry because I’m still trying to understand why and how exactly that is the case and how it ties in with my own gender and desire. I’m peeling back the layers, if you will.

You see, in my everyday life, I’m a queer, butch-loving femme who experiences a profound disidentification with what media portrayals (and, sadly, all too often real people as well) tell me is a woman/girl. Nevertheless, I’m apparently read as a fairly gender-conforming female, at least to the degree that strangers or coworkers wouldn’t seriously question my belonging to this category. But even in contexts where people are easily able to assume I’m straight (e.g. when I haven’t come out verbally yet, or when my transgender butch partner has been read as a cisgendered man and I am “straightened by association”), they still often notice that there’s something odd about the way I do gender and gendered interactions. So in that sense, I do read as queer in many situations, even if I don’t specifically aim for that (but I also don’t aim for avoiding it). If I want, I can make myself look pretty and/or sexy, and not just in the queer eyes of a select few. But that never completely overrules the fact that I also feel like a terribly awkward dork a lot of the time in the area of beauty and sexiness, especially when I didn’t consciously transform myself into a pretty/sexy girl (or woman, or even femme). The dorky, awkward real-life teenage me from 25 years ago has obviously not vanished entirely.

Perhaps this is why Glee speaks to me. It’s this world where people aren’t even expected to know who and what they “really” are. They aren’t supposed to be “done” with themselves. It’s this world where nothing is set in stone yet, where the future is wide open, where anything can happen. Even if we secretly know that this is a lie. Because you can’t fully unlearn being an outcast once you’ve been there. Especially not when you discovered the glittery, hard but absolutely exhilarating joys of it (which reminds me of that quote I recently read about Glee being a few diamonds in a pile of shit). Then again, I never went to an American high school because I grew up in Germany (and still live there), and I’ve never been to a school where athletes and cheerleaders were of any relevance to the entire student body (not to mention that we didn’t even have cheerleaders). Of course we also had social hierarchies and cliques and outcasts, but as long as I had a few like-minded friends, and a teacher or two who cared, I didn’t even want to be “popular” anymore.

I probably also need to say that there were a few rather interesting moments in my adult life where I felt like a young gay guy (which caused a rather interesting temporary transformation of how I perceived my entire body, which is perhaps a story for another day) and/or where I was erotically attracted to a certain type of gay male leather daddy. This attraction also happened while I was wearing a miniskirt and high heeled platform boots with my shaved head. And I know from experience that people’s anatomies are a lot less relevant to me and to the degree I enjoy sexual interactions than I initially thought. What turns me off most men (both cis and trans) isn’t the way their bodies look or work, or even their identification as men, but their inability to see my gender as anything but “naturally female” and our interaction (sexual as well as social) as anything but “naturally heterosexual.” Because I don’t do either of these.

So here I am, identifying with Kurt Hummel of all people (okay, characters) and trying to understand why and how. I’ve obviously never lived a gay male teenager’s life (or a lesbian teenager’s life at that, because I was already 21 when I first came out). I’ve never been harrassed, insulted, shoved into lockers, thrown into dumpsters, and I most definitely never had my life threatened for my queerness, gendered or sexual. Especially not at school. [1] But still, I can relate to Kurt so much more than to any other of the Glee characters.

I’m pretty clear on at least one aspect of why that is.

Before I get into it, however, let me insert a disclaimer. I’m talking about media representations and cultural narratives of certain genders here, and I read them the way I read book or movie characters, even if the stories are at least partly (auto-)biographical. I am not talking about actual people who I’ve personally met. I realize that this is a problematic thing to do, because the two constantly bleed into each other, but it’s the only way I can even start expressing certain things about myself right now. So please read this as provisionary and imperfect images I use because they’re better than nothing and until I find better ones.

So. The way I read Kurt, he embodies a certain kind of queer, camp-influenced, male femininity. And I have always found it a lot easier to identify with the queer femininity of drag queens, or lifestyle queens (I hope this is the appropriate term! I mean people like LaMiranda from the movie Stonewall, for example) and some kinds of feminine, gay men, than with straight or even mainstream-lesbian femininity (I’m looking at you, The L-Word). As much as I can explain that, it has to do with not taking one’s femininity for granted because people keep telling you you’re not good at it (in my case) or that you shouldn’t do it in the first place (in the case of lifestyle queens – which is not to say that I didn’t also get some pretty heavy anti-feminine shit thrown my way from a feminist/lesbian and direction). Instead, this kind of queer femininity has to be carefully and consciously constructed, and it never comes across as completely “natural.” Even if at the same time you feel that it has “always” been there and it just happens without you even thinking about it.

For me, this tension between consciously constructed and “natural” femininity is a fundamental aspect of my own femmeness. You see, I never was a pretty or girly girl. Nor was I an outright tomboy. Instead, I grew up as an oddly gender-neutral kid who was happiest when reading, or creating elaborate fantasy worlds to play in that included rearranging at least half of the furniture in my room. When puberty hit, I found out that all of this was suddenly a problem. I wanted nothing more than to be pretty and desirable like the other girls, but I failed miserably at that. I tried dressing right and wearing my hair right and moving right, but none of these things came “naturally” to me, and I kept looking like I had put on an ill-fitting costume for a role I simply couldn’t pull off. I very obviously wasn’t wanted by any of the teenage boys around me, and I was unable to join all the psychological “games” between girls and boys. Partly, I because found them stupid, but mostly because I just didn’t get them. My intense crushes on boys went unrequited, and I barely had any kind of teenage relationship although I did eventually start making out with boys at parties when we were all drunk and maybe a bit desperate. But I was never chosen by the ones I most desired.

It was only much later, after I had come out as a butch-loving femme (one went with the other for me) in my mid-twenties, that I experienced the blazing glory of being the prettiest girl in the room, being desired above everyone else, and being proudly and publicly chosen – and choosing and desiring back, because that’s part of the butch-femme dance for me, the mutual choice of what is otherwise despised, passed over, and considered ugly. With that came the realization that I could learn doing pretty and sexy femininity and be incredibly powerful at the same time. Even (or rather, especially) when I was yielding to the look and touch of a butch. Finally, femininity didn’t equal being stupid, exploited, or in danger anymore. Because I learned it so late, however, I was very conscious of the act of learning and the amount of practice it took until I was good at it. And that’s precisely when I remembered that I had once, without thinking, seen myself in a ballgown at a women’s dance to which I was invited during the most lesbian-feminist and harshly femme-hating phase of my life. And how perfectly right it had felt to walk into that dance in my red floor-length ballgown from the cheap second-hand store, with my tattoos visible on my upper arms, Doc Martens-like boots peeking out from under the hem of the dress, and a DIY haircut that mostly fulfilled the lesbian cliché look of that time and place – and a dyke in a tuxedo or men’s suit jacket, respectively, on each of my arms. That was indeed a princess dream come true, long before I even dared to think of myself as having even the slightest trace of princess in me, or the desire to be one. Even though I didn’t even know a single ballroom dance step and sat around most of the time, pettily envying the only other young woman in a dress whose femininity was so much more “perfect” than mine (and who therefore couldn’t be a “real” lesbian in my then-“logic”) and who got to dance with the kind of dyke I found most attractive.

It took me a few more years to understand that I didn’t have to be a butch just because I desired butches, and to think about my own gender and desire in terms of butch and femme in the first place. Today, I still cringe at the few pictures of me that exist from these years because I look so awkward in my attempts at looking “like a real lesbian.” I cringe even harder at remembering how I hated my own femininity and tried to eliminate it, not just by putting away my eyeliner and skirts and eventually stopping to do bellydance (which, ironically, had taught me to be erotic and flirtatious for and with women in the first place), but by trying to develop a new body language that would read as more “lesbian” (read: butch). And that point of painful, deliberate, self-hating re-formation of myself is exactly where I come crashing back to Kurt. The Kurt in “Laryngitis” (1×18), who tried so hard to butch it up to be who he thought others wanted him to be. There’s no scene in all three seasons of Glee that make me as uncomfortable as watching Kurt sing “Pink Houses” during that episode, and few that make me tear up as much with pride and joy than seeing him sing “Rose’s Turn” later on.

Because I’ve been there, and not just once, and not just with one gender. So, yeah, that’s where I get Kurt, in all the ambiguity of both becoming and understanding him.

And that’s where I get back to Blaine. Because, at some point in my budding Glee obsession, I realized that I found Blaine attractive. And it was most decidedly Blaine, not Darren Criss who portrays him. And I didn’t find him attractive from a girl-to-guy position. I found him attractive for the way he looked at Kurt, because that’s how I want to be looked at: Like I am loved for being perfectly imperfectly exactly how I am, with all my insecurity and my big dreams and my hurt at never, ever truly fitting in. With my hard-edged scorn for what’s “normal” and my desperate episodes of wanting to be completely unexceptional, just for once. I want to be someone’s treasure, the thing they never thought they could get because they’re as much of a freak as I am, just in a different way. And I want to be the girl to someone’s boy, even though it’s really never that simple and there are days when girls need to give boys flowers in all seriousness and… zig instead of zag. Layers, you know. Layers and intimacy.

Besides that, Blaine has a certain kind of retro masculinity going on, which often looks inherently “queer” to the modern eye (even though it wasn’t back then, except when it was – there’s a brilliant article out there somewhere that discusses Blaine’s clothing and its relation to gayness of earlier time periods but I sadly can’t seem to find it again right now) and which plays into the Kurt/Blaine dynamic. The first time we very explicitly see this is with “Baby, it’s cold outside,” and the retro theme, complete with obvious nods to hidden homosexual narratives of the 1950s, comes back with full force in “Extraordinary Christmas” (3×09). And this retro masculinity has a very strong “lesbian” butch-femme subtext for me. After all, this is where “we” first started – at least in one of the butch-femme history narratives. Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues iconized the decades of the late 1940s to 1960s for us, and many butches and femmes have been romanticizing this time ever since. We’ve been dreaming of being or having a perfect gentleman who really is a “woman,” and in recent years, many of the aesthetics of that time were adopted as an iconic look for butch-femme. All of this is present for me in Blaine and Kurt’s interaction. Which makes it very easy to see myself in their dynamic. And since I really have to think hard to remember even one filmic depiction (let alone in the mainstream media) of a romantic narrative between a (transgender) butch and a queer femme where the butch wasn’t so “girlified,” presumably to make her more acceptable to a larger audience, that she stopped reading as a butch to me, Blaine and Kurt are the closest to home that I’ll probably get anywhere soon.

Finally, the way the two of them don’t even get close to being undressed on-screen (on their own or with each other) goes a very long way for me in reading their genders as something that isn’t determined by their anatomy. Which again ties into my desire for (transgender) butches and my femme gaze at their naked bodies. Because my gaze looks not primarily at the anatomical “truths” which (we’re told so often) remove any doubt about someone’s “real” gender. Instead, I see a different but still gendered layer when I look at a naked butch body that is a lot more true than what a plain photograph of this body could ever capture. In other words, I’m very grateful that Kurt and Blaine’s sexual moments have not been illustrated with lots of undressing of clearly gendered body parts.

Wow. That was a very interesting trip. (It also served its purpose, because I now understand a lot more about my identification with Kurt and desire for Blaine.) I think I’ll do more of them.

Update, 01 August 2012: And how could I forget to link to this article from Letters from Titan where Racheline Maltese has said pretty much the same thing about the butch-femme dynamic between Blaine and Kurt without ever using the words “butch” or “femme.” Here’s an excerpt.

For folks (largely queer folks) paying attention, Glee informs us that Kurt is happy and eager to be an aesthetically feminine partner in his relationship and play act at that very role… when it’s about his relationship. But that in no way makes him a passive, submissive or traditionally feminine partner; it doesn’t even make him a girl (sidenote: I loathe all the stereotypes it’s necessary to address to untangle what’s going on with Kurt, but it’s the world he, and we, live in). It places a heteroaesthetic dynamic around Kurt and Blaine, while firmly removing any hint of a heteronormative one.
That heteroaesthetic dynamic serves to amplify queerness for the viewer interested in queerness, but also to minimize queerness, by suggesting the actually rejected heteronormativity, for the viewier not interested in, or not comfortable with, that same queerness. This is a type of relatively outrageous passing, one that offers Kurt and Blaine safety both intra- and extradiegetically, without imposing restriction on their significantly queer gender expression and sexuality.

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[1] This is not to say I’ve never personally experienced anti-queer harrassment or violence, but the context of those few incidents was very different from what has been shown on Glee. I was also already in my twenties. All in all, I’ve always been a lot more more afraid of anti-queer violence towards my butch girlfriends/partners than towards myself, which probably has to do with the very real and drastic violence they did experience, partly while I was their girlfriend (but not with them when it happened). For now, let’s just say this isn’t my point of connection to Kurt.