Mandatory Performative Pride Month Post 2024 Edition: Weird combination of Roxana Shirazi, Simon Fujiwara, Elisarion and Borderlands

Caveat: While I try not to center myself here, as Pride is definitely not about me, I can’t but contrast certain things to myself. After all, everyone has to experience the world through their own eyes, even if we know and understand that we are not the main character outside of our own lives. So, sorry to bring myself up so many times in the text below. I just couldn’t process this any other way. That’s on me. But hopefully I do manage to talk about something interesting here.

Last year I wrote about the Sexuality in Borderlands. The thing is that in many ways sexuality, as we know it, doesn’t actually exist in Borderlands.

While many of the characters are cis-heteronormative, that’s us imposing that normativity on them. They don’t care. To them it’s all normal, so there is no normativity in this regard. When Janey Springs turns down Torgue, she says she doesn’t date guys. It’s not her sexuality. It’s just her personal preference. Many of the NPCs don’t have these kinds of gender-based preferences. Like Torgue. He has had relationships with both genders, as have Axton, Tannis, Ellie and Moxxi. Even Hammerlock, our supposed token gay character, has expressed bicuriosity. Well, something I would consider bicuriosity from my or our point of view.

A couple of days ago I was at Kiasma (a museum of contemporary art in Helsinki). One of the exhibitions was by Simon Fujiwara, a British artist, and his character Who Bear. “Who” is a character who has a very flexible identity. “Who” is just whatever is needed for the moment. There’s a section, which I assume Fujiwara made especially for Helsinki, with various Finnish things imposed with the “Who”-face in some way or another. There’s also a section with Warhol-style popart of soupcans with “Who” drowning in them. Here’s a link I hope will work in the future as well. Those soupcans are titled “sexuality”, “gender”, “class” and “race”.

Sure, these are things that are often a huge part of our identity, but as a white cis-het middle-class male, I keep thinking about how much do we really want to emphasize these? In this regard I’m fully default. Sure, we shouldn’t see me as default, but that’s the way the world has been built. I’m definitely not saying it’s the right way, though. Still, in most situations, I don’t have to think about these. Do others, who are not the default, having to exist in a world that’s not built for them, have to be aware of them being different at all times? Can you relax unless you are among your own? I mean, certain conservatives keep saying transfolk don’t understand gender, but if you spend a fucking minute thinking about it, transfolk and non-binaries and other genderqueer people are much more aware of the topic, because they have to be. They have a much deeper understanding of all of this, because us cisfolk never have to put any thought into it.

At the same time, I’m not just a white cis-het middle-class male. My profession is part of my identity (although my professional brand is also quite weird). Being a fan of movies and games is part of my identity (but not in specific genre, nor in the gamergate sense, because I would love both to be accessible for everyone and I want to see everyone represented in both). My interest in sciences is a part of my identity (although, as someone from the academic world, I see the problems with the culture around science and how it happens in practice). My atheism is part of my identity (although while I’m anti-organized religion, I’m not anti-religion). Being Finnish is part of my identity (although I don’t use this as an excuse to keep others out). It’s complicated. We are all a huge collection of genetics and experiences that inform us about who we are (and we still might not know).

Recently I read this book called Last Living Slut. In general I would be hesitent to use that word, but it is in the title. It’s about the experiences of a young woman, Roxana Shirazi, who finds a new world of depraved sexuality as… let’s call her a devoted follower of rock’n’roll, because she specifically tells someone not to use the g-word in the book. This is Shirazi’s autobiography and considering how raunchy it gets and how many names are named, I bet lawyers were all over it (although at least some of the bands seemed to wholly embrace the book), so one can assume all the stories are very much true (or at least a version of the truth).

While she doesn’t want to use the g-word, she has stated that she wants to reclaim the s-word. She has freely made it part of her identity. She goes through a lot (her big mistake is falling in love, which leads to an abortion and bad enough PTSD to put her into an institution for a while), but she is still happy to embrace all this. She is also very much bi, but never says it. She just expresses her attraction towards the women around her and has sex with them on many points in her story.

And yet, I’ve seen multiple quotes from her about how she identifies as a nerd. This is also something that’s in the book. She talks about how much she is into her studies and how she used to find solace in books when she was bullied as an immigrant teenager. She also brings up her love of Iran, her homeland, so that’s also a big part of her identity, even though she has spent most of her life living in the UK.

And yet, the s-word dominates how we see her. Sure, she does this to herself, but that is motivated by the need to reclaim it. What about the men? They are just rockers and womanizing is just part of that, except that in the book the situation is often quite the opposite. She is in control. She initiates sexual encounters and she is the one who chooses to let the men live out their fantasies. (Weirdly enough, Neil Strauss was a big part of why the book got published.)

But, again, she is a nerd, because identities are complicated.

Moving on to the next obscure figure: Elisarion. Elisarion, or Elisar von Kupffer, was a Baltic-German (a community of ethnic Germans living in Estonia and Latvia back in the day) artist, who used to make very androgynous paintings in the early 20th century. This was actually a part of his cult activities, as they (I’m not sure about their pronouns, but it feels like they would have chosen ‘they/them’ if it had ever come up) and a co-conspirator formed a new religion called Klarismus. I haven’t heard anything negative about this religion, but as I understand it, it was born out of similar ideas as theosophy and anthroposophy in that it was a reaction to positivist worldview and the morals supposedly based on it (positivism is a philosophy of science, which claims that there is a clear natural law behind everything and if we just look hard enough, we’ll find it eventually – it has been largely superseded by post-positivism, which also posits that these laws exist, but we will never be able to figure them all out).

However, they weren’t only an artist, cult leader and queer. They was also a) German and b) rich. When Hitler came to power, they bought the line about ûbermench, because in their mind they were transcending gender and what would be more ûber than that? I wonder how many of their followers died because of this? They themself retreated to Switzerland, which managed to stay out of the war.

Once again, identities are complex.

…and we should embrace that. The thing about simple, often binary identities is that they allow for hierarchies. You can’t really have white supremacy unless you have white people and you can’t have patriarchy without men. We can’t have Elisarions embracing national socialism, unless we have people, who are rich enough not to have to think about the world critically except in the ways that matter to them personally.

I guess what I’m saying is that I hope one day we can live in a world that doesn’t need Pride. Pride is great, but it also exists out of necessity. It exists because of othering of certain people. If we learn not to do that and just accept that we are all very different, we don’t need Pride. Will that ever happen? I don’t know, but I doubt it will happen in my lifetime. (For the record, I’m 47.)

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