I must admit that even after the explanation, discussion and participating during last week’s class, I still left class feeling apprehensive. I thought to myself “what have I gotten myself into?” “This is way more than I can handle”.
When I began this week’s assignments, my expectations were very low. I only expected to be able to comprehend bits and pieces. Yet, to my pleasant surprise, I understood everything and then some.
Queerskins by Illya Szilak is a wonderful piece of electronic literature. I wholeheartedly enjoyed this body of work. As I read and navigated through the site, I found myself constantly drawing parallels with previous works I’ve read and seen. The most recent work I compared Queerskins to is the FX series Pose. Similar to the life of Sebastian, Pose is also set during the height of the HIV/AIDs epidemic. The lives of a community of trans women and gay men living in NYC is documented in the series. Each of these characters has a different origin story, yet their lives are all intertwined through the ballroom community, the ostracization of LGBTQ individuals and the effects of HIV/AIDs on the community.
As I read and listened to various sections of Sebastian’s life, I kept comparing his life to various characters within Pose. There is a character named Damon who leaves his life in Pennsylvania in pursuit of New York City after his father finds out he is gay and beats him severely. His story reminds me of the strained relationship between Sebastian and his father. Even as a child, Sebastian’s father was abusive toward him. He would beat him for “no reason”. Sebastian’s father wanted to nothing to do with him after he found out his son was gay. He did not want to hear any news about Sebastian, nor did he attend his funeral.
Sebastian’s father refusing to attend his funeral reminded me of the character Candy. Candy was a trans prostitute who was brutally murdered by one of her clients. In the wake of her death, the ballroom community comes together to organize a funeral for her. During their planning, they reach out to her parents who quickly denounce Candy as their daughter and state that they only had a son. It is presumed throughout the episode that Candy’s parents will not show up to her funeral. However, her parent’s show up to pay their respects. It is through the funeral that her parents gain some sort of insight into what her life was like as a woman. It is also through the funeral, that viewers learn Candy was also HIV positive.
Lastly, Sebastian’s love life reminded me of almost every character on Pose. In the show, love and romance within the community operates within the shadows. There are written and unwritten rules that everyone abides by; some even make up their own rules as they go along the way. This reminded me of Sebastian’s relationship with Alex and JM. Sebastian and Alex’s relationship was monogamous yet open. They were committed to one another, but they also acknowledged Wednesdays as the designated day they were allowed to sleep with other people. JM and Alex did not court one another like heterosexuals do. This is mostly because they were not afforded that luxury due to being two gay men. Despite this, they found ways to make their relationship work by operating in the shadows and also establishing some form of normalcy. This is a common trope in Pose. The community operates on a need to know basis; those who need to know know and those who do not need to know do not know.
I believe what captivated me the most about this text was the readability of it. It flowed seamlessly. Each chapter being placed in the perfect order. The site also provides the reader with the ability to navigate in whichever order they please. They can read an excerpt from Sebastian’s journal or listen to an audio clip. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece and would even recommend it to anyone who’s interested in learning about electronic literature.
(Now I’m nervous about presenting my own because it doesn’t flow this easily!)