Whose Is the Face In The Mask?

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Hi!  And welcome to my main site/blog.  I’m a proudly Disabled, gender-fluid, ChristoPagan multidisciplinary artist.  I mainly podcast and write.  Although, I also sing whenever I can!  Though, sadly, that’s not nearly as often as I’d like because my Disabilities limit how much I can get out there and gig, thus my doing it mainly online.

 

All my work – my podcast, my writing, and even my music – is an exploration of the story of The Phantom Of The Opera, especially as embodied in the Lloyd Webber stage-musical (as originally staged and designed by Hal Prince, Maria Bjornson and Gillian Lynn).  Because, I’ve been a Phan for decades now!  And although it’s taken me a long time to figure out how to articulate it, my passion in life is using my academic training and artistic background to explore and cultivate Phantom as a spiritual praxis for healing and liberation, both personal and collective.  I know that might sound a bit weird!  But my Phanship has been that for me for many years now, as I said, long before I could actually put it into words.  Phantom has deeply shaped and informed my own spirituality and politics!  So now I want to share that through my various art media – which have, of course, been thoroughly shaped themselves by the influence of Phantom on my spirituality and politics.

 

In that vain, I invite you to also check out my other blog over on DreamWidth.  There, along with regular life stuff, I share my explorations in cultivating and practicing a NeoPagan path based on Phantom  – which I call Spirit and Voice – in the hope, both of its being useful to others, and of connecting with other Phans interested in such a path.  I myself practice it as a syncretism with Left/liberation Christianity, but that’s certainly not the only possible configuration!  Indeed, that’s one reason why I gave it a space of its own.  Because, my own art practice reflects my own peculiar ChristoPagan syncretism.  Whereas, the Spirit and Voice path should be accessible to folks with a wide variety of spiritual orientations from exclusively Pagan to syncretized/hybridized with other traditions.  So I try over there to present it as accessibly and inclusively as possible, and I hope I succeed!  Though, I will sometimes cross-post stuff from that blog here as well.

 

My podcast, meanwhile, mainly explores the political – exploring both how the Phantom story in its various incarnations manifests intersectionality, and also how it can become a critical tool.  It’s in my writing and my music, as alluded to above,  where I explore and express Phantom as a spiritual praxis, both on its own and in dialogue/syncretism with Christian traditions.

 

That all said, though, it’s not always all serious, either  around here or in any of my spaces.  Sometimes I just like to kick back and have fun as a Phan, because joy, fun and celebration are important, too!

 

Anyway, if that all sounds weird but interesting, then keep tuning into my various spaces.  Although, admittedly, I don’t post or update any of them nearly as often as I ought to!  But you can also follow me on my various social media where I try to be better about that.  You can like/follow my Facebook, my Twitter, and my podcast’s Twitter.  And if you really enjoy/love what you find in any of my work, I’d be eternally grateful for your support on my Patreon!  Now, I absolutely get that that’s not an option sometimes.  Heaven knows I’ve been there myself!  But for those who are able, any contributions will be gratefully accepted.  Because, it’s my dream in life to be able to make my living doing this work that I love and believe in!

 

Thanks, and Amen/Blessed be.

Announcing a new project – Creature Of Darkness!! #Zine #PhantomoftheOpera

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So once again it’s been ages since I’ve posted here. LOL I get so busy doing stuff that I don’t find time to write about it! And I’ve shifted a lot of the analysis stuff that I used to do here to my podcast, and to the new project I’ll soon be launching!

So after feeling excluded from zine culture for a lot of years because of its seeming like another hyper-visual idiom that would have a lot of barriers to me as a Blind person, I finally, recently, got inspired to do my own zine! I was inspired by the amazing zines written and produced by Clementine Morrigan https://www.clementinemorrigan.com, in particular their zines Fucking Magic and Trauma Magic. They’re both life-writing zines in which Clementine shares their own journey of recovery and coming into magical and political consciousness. And they’re really powerful and beautiful! Clementine also, to my eternal gratitude, makes a point of making them accessible. They’re heavy on text, and she makes sure the pdfs are screen-reader friendly. Which finally made me feel welcome in the world of zining!

So, as I said, Clementine’s work inspired me to start a zine of my own. Because, I really like the format they use! And I feel like I feel like it’s the write idiom in which to share my own journey of and reflections on coming into politicized, magical Phanship. Because, while I’ve shared some of that in my academic writing and certainly plan to continue doing so, academic writing has certain limitations. You can’t always get as personal, as speculative – as “what if…?”. You can’t often talk about magic and spirituality except as social processes, and you generally have to present a critical analysis. Whereas, in a zine format like Clementine’s, you don’t necessarily have to present a critical analysis. You certainly can, but you don’t have to. And it also gets around the other limitations of academic writing.

The first zine I’m starting, then, is called Creature Of Darkness after the line “Pitiful creature of darkness, what kind of life have you known? God, give me courage to show you you are not alone!” from the Final Lair in Phantom. It’s part Phanzine, part perzine, and part on-going, evolving manifesto. It’s a search for self and community through sharing my own journey as a Disabled, Gender-fluid, Queerish, ChristoPagan medical/educational-industrial complex surviver Phan. And I hope it’ll help others the way Clementine’s work has helped me – by providing a space where those on similar/intersecting/parallel journeys can feel heard/seen and know they’re/you’re not alone, and by sharing the healing tools and insights that have been so helpful and powerful for me! I hope to launch it some time this month, both on my Patreon – https://www.patreon.com/phantomfemme – and on Lulu Press. Though, I also think I might make some of the first issues available here, too, for free just to help get the thing going. I’m still figuring out the cover-art, though, so I’m not sure exactly when that will happen. So watch this space!!

Also watch my Patreon, though. Because, I might also release some excerpts from the first issue there as teasers. They’ll be available at the cheapest tier, though, and there may be some freebies as well! So keep an eye/ear out for that soon.

 

I’m also planning, at some point, to launch a project in which I sahre my thoughts and practice of Phantom and Phanship as a ChristoPagan spiritual path.  But I haven’t decided yet whether to do that as another zine or a new podcast.  There are pros and cons either way!  As some of you will recall, I started sharing some of that as a blog project earlier this year, in fact. But, A, a blog didn’t quite feel right for it, and B, I found I just couldn’t keep up with that much writing and posting on top of everything else I’m working on!  And I’m not sure yet whether a new podcast or a zine would make that more manageable and be the format best suited to the topic.  And I have no idea when that project might happen, so definitely watch this and my other spaces for updates!

 

Anyway, that’s what’s coming up in the near future.  And as you can imagine, I’m really excited about it!  And of course, I hope you’ll all really enjoy my upcoming projects and find them useful as well.

My Music Finally Rebooted At Last!

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So I mentioned (quite a while ago now) that I was planning to reboot my music after doing a good deal of rethinking. And I finally have! It took a while, though, both to get things set back up, and because I was looking for the right occasion to relaunch. And this past Saturday, June 6 2020, seemed like an excellent time to do so!

As you’ll perhaps recall, I’ve performed several times in the Toronto Open Tuning Festival. Well, this year, for obvious reasons, the festival was held online rather than live. Plus, of course, it’s the start of Pride month. So this seemed to me like a perfect opportunity to launch the reboot of my music with my contribution to the online Open Tuning! (See the embed above. And do let me know if it works!)

I’m essentially relaunching my music online, then, because, that’s the most accessible way for me to share it. Don’t get me wrong, I love performing live when I’m able to! But I’ve found that, between my fluctuating “spoons” and challenges with getting around, I’m not able to nearly as often as I’d like. Not to mention, I’m not able to perform live nearly as often as necessary to pursue a music career seriously. Thankfully, though, there’s the magic of the internet! And there, I can share both my original songs and covers whenever I’m able and publicize them on social media. So check out my new Vimeo channel called Spirit and Voice!

Granted, I’m not sure how often I’ll be posting music there. It depends on my “spoons” and how my music is balancing with everything else I’m working on. Plus, because I only have semi-fine motor control, it can take me a long time to learn and master new accompaniments even when they’re relatively simple. But I’m really looking forward to sharing my music in a way that’s relatively accessible for me!

That said, though, as a Blind musician, sharing my music in a video idiom is a bit of a challenge. In honesty, I have no idea what my videos look like, or if they’ve come out anything like the way I intended! LOL So if they seem to lack polish, that’s why. Though, hopefully I’ll get better at it with practice! So I’ll also be sharing my music on my Soundcloud for good measure. Though, again, I don’t know how often I’ll be able to do that.

I’m also relaunching my music as a largely acoustic undertaking this time. Not that I won’t plug in sometimes! But after thinking about it a lot, playing a live instrument feels more authentic to me than the fake, computer-generated band accompaniments I used to use. Not that I’m committed to remaining a solo act for life, though! I would love to play with other musicians in the future when I find the right ones and have the chops. But playing with other actual musicians feels different to me than playing with a fake, virtual band! Playing with other musicians involves A, actual playing of real instruments, and B, actual sharing of making music with other people. And that feels more in line with my values than using technology to fake it.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy my music! I’m certainly going to really enjoy finally being able to share it. Because, as much as I enjoy writing and doing my podcast, music is really my first love. That’s where the real magic is for me!

P.S.

Uh, yes, I did say the name of my own channel wrong in the video. LOL Oops! That’s what I get for not checking my own details before filming and posting. But the correct name is, in fact, Spirit and Voice. My bad!

Short-Term Charity VS LongTerm Solidarity In The Context of #Coronavirus. #COVID19

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So I’ve been hearing a lot of very enlightened and progressive proposed responses to COVID-19 lately – universal paid sick-leave so people don’t have to go to work sick, expanded social safety nets for people whose livelihoods have been crashed by the pandemic, moratoria on evictions and foreclosures, moratoria on utility shut-offs, making testing and (when it comes) treatment universally accessible, etc. Hell, renowned economist Joseph Stiglitz was on Democracy Now this morning recommending measures such as these, and in doing so sounding suspiciously like a democratic socialist! Although, that observation might well make him queasy. And all these proposals are excellent! Hell, they should be no-brainers that should be implemented immediately and without fuss!

But there’s a red flag, though, and that’s the constant invocation of the emergency – the constant invocation of these measures as special responses to coronavirus . But what happens when the emergency passes? What happens when the crisis is over? Because, the constant invocation of special circumstances implies that such measures of collective support are not needed in “normal” times. It also, therefore, implies that those needs (for health-care, housing, economic assistance, etc,) not directly related to the crisis are not included in these “emergency” measures.

And that, in a nutshell, is one of the key differences between charity and solidarity. Charity, at its best, seeks to provide immediate relief to people in emergency situations. And that is important to be sure! But it is short-term. Indeed, it is deliberately short-term, simply hoping to get people through the immediate crisis and “back on their feet” – back to “normal”. Solidarity, however, looks not only at the immediate emergency, but the underlying structural causes. And it seeks to implement long-term, system-level solutions so that people not only get out of the immediate crisis, but are defended to the greatest extent possible against future crises. It seeks not only to deal with the immediate emergency, but build in resilience to future shocks by making sure that those most vulnerable are as well supported and cared for as possible. Thus, as part of that building of resilience, solidarity seeks to implement measures like those alluded to above on a permanent bases so that they are always in place, rather than their having to be invoked on a crisis by crisis basis and tied to specific emergencies. It seeks to make sure they are truly universally available, both to all people and at all times.

It is incredibly important that this aspect of long-term planning not get lost in the rush for immediate relief. Because, as Naomi Klein points out in her brilliant 2014 book This Changes Everything, good long-term planning is how societies can become resilient and better able to weather not only this crisis but the next one, whether it be another pandemic or a natural disaster, rather than simply reeling from one emergency to another.

At the same time, however, it is crucial to make sure that immediate relief isn’t lost or, worse, subordinated to long-term planning and struggle. And I think, perhaps, this is where Bernie Sanders missed the mark in his most recent debate with Joe Biden. Biden gave listeners a reassuring sense that there would be immediate relief for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. And that resonated powerfully with freaked out voters, even though he left the questions of the long-term and needs unrelated to the pandemic unaddressed. Whereas, Bernie emphasized long-term plans to address the root causes of vulnerability to the current crisis, but failed to reassure listeners that their immediate emergency needs would be met. Now, I fully believe he intends to attend to those immediate needs! But he did not succeed in conveying that to listeners/voters, giving the (I believe inaccurate) impression that immediate relief was being neglected or, worse, sacrificed to long-term plans for structural change. He did not succeed in conveying how he would address, as the Black Panthers put it, “survival pending revolution”.

I think there’s an important lesson for Progressives to take from this. And that is that a key part of solidarity means addressing “survival pending revolution” – addressing how people’s immediate, urgent, often crisis needs (even without a natural disaster or pandemic) are going to be attended to while we fight for long-term transformation. And it’s not a matter of being able to meet people’s needs perfectly! Because thats’ going to be impossible during struggle and it would be a lie to say otherwise. The important thing, though, is to make sure we convey that those needs are not forgotten amidst our grand ideals and long-term plans. And I do think a lot of it is a matter of communication. Because, Progressives often have thought about those immediate concerns and how to address them! Though, true, not always. But we need to get really good at communicating effectively that we have accounted for those immediate needs. Otherwise, short-term fears for survival are going to continue to trump (pun not intended) long-term desires for change. This is why things like unions, worker cooperatives and mutual aid networks are often such important and powerful organizing vehicles. Because, if we’re going to ask people to let go of those fears and trust their futures to our visions of transformation, they need – and have the right to demand – a safety net! People find courage to fight when they know they’re not alone – when they know that those struggling with them will have their back when the shit hits the fan. And that’s critically important for Progressives to take to heart. Because, unless and until we get the kind of transformation we envision, a lot of shit is going to be hitting a lot of fans for a lot of people!

Check out my new project over on DreamWidth!

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So I’ve started a new blog over on DreamWidth! Don’t worry, though, nothing’s happening to this one. But I’ve started a new project, and I wanted to give it its own space distinct from what I do here.

On the new blog, I’m sharing my explorations in cultivating and practicing a NeoPagan path based on Phantom which I call Spirit and Voice. It’s a path I’ve practiced in private, though without a name, for a long time on and off. But for a long time it was held back by imposter-syndrome – both about myself, feeling that I didn’t have the expertise to be developing my own path, and about the path itself because it didn’t/doesn’t fit any of the conventional Neo/Pagan molds (reclaiming pre-Christian religions, Earth-based spirituality, Feminist/Women’s spirituality, etc,) – at least not obviously. But lately I’ve felt called and inspired to learn to ditch that and finally start publicly sharing! And after thinking for a while about how to go about doing so, I decided that a blog was the best way for now.

I decided, though, as mentioned above, to make it a separate blog from this one. Because, as I’ve alluded to elsewhere, my own practice of this path is very much part of a ChristoPagan syncretism which is reflected in a lot of my music and the writing I share here. Whereas, I want to present the Spirit and Voice as accessibly and inclusively as possible, because I want it to be open and welcoming to folks of all spiritual orientations whether they’re exclusively Pagan or practice syncretism with other traditions! Because, I want it to be useful and helpful to others struggling with the sense of misfit I did when cultivating relationships with unconventional Sacred Beings. But also, I hope that, in sharing my own endeavours and explorations, I can connect with other Phans interested in developing such a path!

That said, the new blog doesn’t look like much yet. So please bear with me! Just as I did with this site, I’m probably going to have to track down some sighted help to get it looking all spiffy – to put in a good profile-pic and icon and get them looking good. And I don’t know how long it’ll take me to arrange that, especially given coronavirus!! Don’t let the lack of visual pizazz discourage you, though. I’ve already started posting writing there and will post more soon, so do go ahead and check it out!!

Music Reboot: Or How The Climate Crisis Completely Changed My Orientation!

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So once again I haven’t posted in ages! Have been insanely busy! There was of course the great move this past summer, God am I glad that’s over with, then from there I’ve just been trying to keep up with school and my podcast. Oh yeah, and there’s been a bunch of climate organizing too, because I kind of jumped in to take point on accessibility for our two big climate marches this fall. Although, mercifully more so for the first march than the second one, by which point the other organizers were able to take what had been done for the first march and run with it. Which was great, because by then it was the last, and thus craziest, month of term! LOL So yeah, things have been rather hectic around here, thus my neglecting this site. Oops!!

Anyway, I figured the start of the new year was a good time to post again. And on that note, happy New Year everyone!!

Anyhow, as some of you will recall, back when I started this site, I was really trying to get up and going as a musician. But that kind of died on the vine, partly for some access-related reasons, but partly for some other reasons. Or rather, now that I think about it, my original music being thwarted by lack of access gave me an opportunity to re-examine things and reflect. Back when I started, I was really into symphonic metal, so that was the kind of music I wanted to make. But over the past bunch of years, I’ve really moved away from that both aesthetically and, for lack of a better word, philosophically.

The issue is that I became increasingly uncomfortable with how dependant my music was on technology, both to produce and to perform. Because, for various reasons, some related to my limited mobility and some related to my lack of musical chops on any instrument but voice, I never was able to get a live band up and going. So I was totally dependant on my computer to produce full, rich, metal-sounding arrangements. Hell, even as I moved towards a softer, more music-theatre sound, I still relied on my computer’s midi instruments to fill out the arrangements! And I still needed to run accompaniment tracks from my iPad in order to perform. But this hyper-dependence on technology has felt increasingly wrong. I’ve increasingly felt that I should being doing stuff that, yes, might be plugged in for amplification and effects, but could just as well be performed acoustically. Because, are we not in a climate and ecological crisis? Rhetorical question, yes we are! And to deal with that crisis, don’t we need urgently to be lowering our energy consumption and rebuilding community? Again, rhetorical question. Yes we absolutely do! So why the hell was I off doing highly technologically dependant music that would sound very diminished acoustically, and that wasn’t helping me connect with people? As I said, it increasingly felt wrong. What was more, all my favourite artists, those whom I admire for doing really superb music that’s utterly relevant socially and politically, were doing music on real instruments that could be done justice to whether plugged or unplugged. Even the hiphop artists I’ve come to like write in such a way that there pieces can be done unaccompanied without loosing quality! I’ve heard them do so at a bunch of protests. So I came to feel in my gut and spirit that, if I want my music to be socially, politically and spiritually relevant, too, then my own practice as a musician needs to embody values of humanity and community. It needs to be grounded.

The upshot of all that, then, is that, when I get my music back up and going, which I hope to be able to do in the fairly near future, it will have a very different sound than the stuff I’ve put out before! I will, of course, still use the internet to share and distribute it, because I kind of have to. But now the tech will be a supplement – a way to both get around access barriers and, hopefully, reach a wider audience. It won’t be integral to my sound or to performance.

The awesome thing is that I think I’ve found a way to make this change while still producing a full, rich sound in my accompaniments, that’s also within my skill-level as an instrumentalist! Because, that’s always been part of the problem. As I said, my main instrument’s always been voice, so I’ve never really developed chops on anything else. Additionally, because I have CP, I don’t have super fine-motor control. It’s OK, but not up to really virtuostic, or even just plain fast, playing. LOL As the current pinch-hitter organist at church pithily put it (with regard to himself not me although I fully relate to the sentiment), “there’s an inverse relationship between the number of notes and how fast I can play them”. LOL So well said!! So a lot of my musical journey has been trying to find work-arounds for those limitations. And by the grace of the Universe, I think I might finally have found one that doesn’t rely on my computer to fake it! I can’t say more without giving spoilers. But hopefully you’ll see and hear soon!

Don’t get me wrong, though, and don’t worry, I haven’t gone Luddite or anything! LOL Those of you who know me know I very much doubt I could. I love and value labour-saving, not to mention access-facilitating, technologies as much as the next person. And I profoundly believe in the importance of preserving those to the greatest extent possible! But I also know that, in the ASAP future, regardless of what genre/style/idiom/medium of art we make, we’re going to have to do it using strictly renewable energy sources and sustainable production processes. Moreover, our art itself is going to have to transform. It’s going to have to stop being a commodity on the market and/or a mere entertainment or escape. It’s going to have to become, instead, a form of renewable energy itself in a way – a source of nourishment, healing and renewal for people psychically and spiritually that strengthens us for the struggle and for the work of surviving and thriving. Now I’m not suggesting, by any means, that this can only be done by small, acoustic bands/artists. Indeed, one of my great dreams in life is to see, and preferably to be involved in creating, a powered-down, non-extractive production of the ALW Phantom. It’d be a huge challenge! But with a bit of creativity, I think it could be done. And that’d be amazing!!But it would be very different from the large-scale, constantly running “sit-down” productions we’re used to (more on my thoughts as to how that might work in future posts). It would, though, be about people coming together in love and community to make and hear great music, tell and receive a sacred story through art, and raise and move energies for healing and regeneration. Perhaps it’d be about that even more than existing productions of the show are now! And that kind of art, that spirit of art, is what I want my own music to be a part of – to move towards. But I don’t feel like I can do that as long as my music’s faked through my computer. It feels too ungrounded that way, and frankly I think it was alienating people.

Woohoo! Finally found a way to resurrect my music!!

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So as much as I genuinely love school and especially doing my podcast,the one thing I do regret in all that is that my first love, my music, has really gotten pushed to the back burner. LOL Witness how bloody long it’s been since I posted anything about my poor, misbegotten album Dark Resistance!! Partly, of course, it’s been that, between school and the podcast, I’ve been just really busy and haven’t had a lot of “spoons”, as we often say in the Disabled community, to spare for it. Because, rehearsing, and especially recording and making my accompaniment tracks, takes actually quite a lot of energy! It takes a particular kind of alertness and focus that I just don’t have when I’m tired, which is a lot.

But also, frankly, as a musician, I found I was running into a lot of access barriers in terms of getting my stuff out there. Because I’m not really mobile – it’s really hard and nerve-racking for me to get to placesnew locations unassisted, it’s hard for me to get out there and gig. And truth to tell, I wasn’t getting a lot of help with that from my fellow musicians. I often felt an attitude of “if you can’t do it yourself and don’t have someone to manage you, why are you even here?” Not a very welcoming feeling!! Plus, I have to compete with sighted, able-bodied people who can more easily move on stage and engage with their audiences and generally look slick. So honestly, I kind of gave up on it. But I regret that, and it pisses me off, because that’s sheer ableism!!

Recently, though, I’ve thought of a way I might be able to revive my music, using the wonders of the internet to bypass my restrictions on gigging. Though, that being said, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to do live gigs! I love performing live when I can!! It just means I might be able to bypass having to get out there and pound the pavement more than I’m actually able to in order to put my stuff out in the world. And it’ll mean that, when people ask me about my music, I’ll actually have something to direct them to so they can hear what I do. And maybe that’ll help the imposter syndrom, too! So look for that coming soon. And of course, I’ll post as soon as it’s up and going!! Because, I’m very excited about it!! Unfortunately, though, that’s not going to be for a while yet. Because, I’m in the middle of moving right now, so life’s pretty chaotic!! But I’m hoping to get that up and going as soon as I can once I’m settled into the new place. Even so, though, that might not be till August or September, or even till later in the fall LOL depending on how long it takes my finances to recover from the move. Ah, the joys!

Anyway, hopefully sooner rather than later. But first, on with the moving!! Then, as soon as that’s done, LOL regular life can resume and I can get to work on this.

Love Will Save This Place: Finding the Heart to Change Everything.

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So I know I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been super busy with the holidays, school and the podcast, not to mention a housing hunt! But I wanted to post this for Valentine’s Day because it’s about love, though not of the kind conventionally understood as romantic.

For the past couple of years now, there’s been a vigorous debate within the world of climate activism over the best way to motivate people to take action. In particular, there has been a vigorous debate over whether positivity or fear is more effective. Do you emphasize the positive – the fact that we already, now, have everything we need to transition off of fossil-fuels, and thereby build up people’s hope and enthusiasm? Or, do you emphasize the danger – the increasingly dyer scientific warnings, the horrific visions of the future if we don’t change, and try to scare people into “waking up” and taking action? I would argue that both sides of this debate are, with all respect, wrong. Neither positivity nor fear is what’s needed. Positivity alone is too weak a motivator for the kind of massive, whole-scale transformation called for by the climate crisis. The crisis literally requires that we change everything – our economy, our agriculture, our transportation and travel habits, everything. And change that sweeping can be as scary as exciting. It will therefore require something stronger than just positivity about the fact that it can be done to help people push through the fear, leave behind the devil they know, and become active in the transformation.

Using fear, meanwhile, can backfire in two distinct ways. First of all, as has been frequently pointed out, it can have the effect of shutting people down, so that they become even more inactive and disengaged. But also, though far less discussed but of equally great concern (or it should be) to activists, is that while fear can powerfully motivate people to fight for their survival, it can motivate people to do so in very nasty ways. Because, when people are afraid for their survival, unless they already have a very strong, very well developed and embodied ethic/politics/spirituality/practice of radical compassion in place, they tend to fight ruthlessly, doing whatever they feel they must in order to assure that survival. It tends to create a “lifeboat” mentality, in which those other than “their own” are felt to be in competition for survival resources and thus a threat. And so people fight xenophobically and cruelly. This is a big part of the reason why times of crisis provide such fertile ground for fascists and other right-wing demagogs. And I don’t think we want a “life-boat” mentality to inform climate politics!

Rather, as Naomi Klein beautifully shows in her three most recent books – This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs the Climate (2014), No Is Not Enough (2017) and The Battle For Paradise (2018), by far the most courageous, determined, but also generous and open-hearted struggles for transformation come neither from positivity nor from fear, but from love. Often, they come from love of place, love of animals, love of children/grandchildren and their future, or love of cherished ways of life (farming, fishing, subsistence hunting, Indigenous traditions). These struggles tend to invite allies in to help defend what is beloved rather than seeing strangers as threats, and to forge common links with others engaged in similar struggles. This has even allowed groups once antagonistic to each other (settlers and Indigenous people, ranchers and Vegan activists, BIPOC and white allies, youth and elders, etc,) to come together to resist extraction projects and demand climate justice (see Klein for some amazing examples). And this has even lead to the beginning of powerful processes of healing from historical trauma (see again Klein,)!

To some extent, the role of love in motivating struggle has been understood by activists as campaigns to get people to “fall in love with nature” show. What has not been grasped yet, it seems to me, is the necessity to activate people based on what they already love rather than trying to get people to love what you think will activate them. We need to not only meet people where their knowledge is, but where their hearts are. We need to not only help people see how what they love is endangered by climate change, but how what they love can be transformed through politicization, and thus be carried forward into a new, just, sustainable world. Because, if people believe that the transformation will destroy what they love every bit as much as climate change will, they won’t fight. They’ll go into despair instead. And they will cling desperately to the old civilization even as they know it’s destroying the planet, preferring to “go down with the ship” then to loose what they love dearly – basically, nihilism. And/or, they will join the struggle, but half-heartedly, held back by ambivalence.

I struggled with this myself for a long time. Because, although I deeply believe that Phantom is a story about social justice, I feared greatly that the aesthetic, especially of the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage-show, could not be continued without the big-city, capitalist infrastructure that originally produced it. But that aesthetic is part of what I love about Phantom. And oddly enough, I feel a deep connection between the aesthetic and the social justice (more on that in future posts). I felt very much on my own, however, in finding my way out of this impasse, because I did not feel that I could talk about it with fellow activists. Most of the activist I know express their politics through aesthetics of simplicity, and so I feared that they would not be any too sympathetic to my love of the high-romantic aesthetics of Phantom (an attitude with which I do have prior experience, so that fear does not come out of nowhere). Thus, although my Phanship and my anti-poverty and Disability activism have been a strong fit with one another right from the start, for a long time I feared that my Phanship and my climate activism were incompatible. Because, I feared that the necessary social and economic changes to transform us to a degrowth society would destroy Phantom just as much as climate change itself would. I wanted to believe that there was a way to carry it forward – that that destruction wasn’t inevitable, but I couldn’t see how yet. And the message I felt coming from climate activism was, not meeting me where my heart lies and helping me figure it out, but “put away childish things, leave behind such a relic of white, heteropatriarcal, bourgeois consumer-capitalism, and fall in love with nature instead and thereby embrace simplicity”. Not that anyone has ever said this to me directly, but it seems to be very strongly implied in the messaging of much climate (and other) activism. But I have never found that terribly helpful, and I suspect I’m not alone there! Because, you can’t just stop loving what you love because some one says you should, even some one you admire and respect. You love what you love for reasons, even if those reasons don’t always make sense to others!

Now, I have recently begun to see a way out of this dilemma, and not by renouncing my Phanship either! I have begun to see a way that Phantom, in all, or at least most, of its high romantic splendour, can be transformed so that it can be carried forward into a post-carbon, degrowth world. Though, no, I won’t give away what that is just yet! And certainly the time and energy spent wrestling with this issue didn’t stop my climate activism. I worked for a habitable planet and a society based on climate justice, and hoped that Phantom might be preserved even as I feared that it wouldn’t. But it did hinder my climate activism. It made me ambivalent, and therefore less effective then I might otherwise have been. And I suspect that there are lots of others out there in a similar position – knowing that climate change is a crisis, wanting to do something about it, wanting to make the world a better place, but fearing that the things they love will be lost in the transformation.

I think, then, that we need to do four things if we truly want to get people mobilized and active:

1. We must learn to tell the difference between love and consumption simply to fill the void of an alienated life. For example, a lot of people would likely read my Phanship practices as mindless, addicted consumption. And they certainly do involve a fair bit of buying stuff I’ll unapologetically admit! But there’s so much more to it than that, as anyone who reads this blog or listens to my podcast can hopefully tell! I would argue, then, that the difference (or at least one of the key differences) is that, like for so many Phans/fans, my/our love for Phantom/whatever our passion is inspires me/us not only to consume, but to create as well – blogs like this one, Phan/fan art, Phan/fanfiction, Phan/fan crafts and jewelry, etc,. (I haven’t yet done Phan art or crafts, but I know lots of people who have! And the same most definitely goes for folks in other fandoms, too.)

2. Help people understand how what they love is endangered by the climate crisis itself, and by the underlying societal problems that created and drive it.

3. Without dissing, shaming, talking down or condescending, help people politicize what they love by making the critical tools available in a friendly, safe and supportive way. For example, although I had an instinct that Phantom was inherently political from the beginning, I couldn’t articulate why or how until I almost literally stumbled across intersectional Critical Disability theory. But once I did, that opened Phantom up to all kinds of explorations of its political possibilities that I wish I’d had access to years earlier! Also, though, support those who already do have a politicized understanding of what they love, even if it’s not yet well articulated. “Jedi Knights for Justice” (no, sadly that’s not actually a thing that exists that I know of) should be welcome at any climate rally or march, as should be “Phans for Social Justice”! (No, that latter doesn’t actually exist either, but it’s something I’d love to start!) Yet all too often, pop-culture fans see activists as super-serious people who’ll give them dirty looks if they come in their fan/Phan regalia, and activists see pop-culture fans/Phans as frivolous, narcissistic and juvenile – a highly unproductive impasse! So we really need to move beyond those stereotypes and start coming together to discover how all the things we love can power us into a just, equitable and sustainable future.

4. Get really super creative, and help facilitate people’s being able to imagine the things they love transformed so that they no longer depend on the fossil-fuel economy to exist. This will require a lot of creativity and “outside the box” thinking, because many things seem so deeply imbedded in the current system that it is hard to imagine them any other way (film, television, fashion, big rock ’n roll, etc,). But if I can figure out how to imagine a post-carbon ALW Phantom, then surely it can be done for other things people love as well!

These four inter-related recommendations are by no means the final answer to how to mobilize the world for the struggle for climate justice, though I hope they are at least a start. But certainly the task they’re components of is a significant part of that answer! Because, as we all surely know, there is no more powerful motivator than love! It can change lives, and it can change the world. People don’t sell out what/who they love for a better deal no matter how “irresistible” that deal is made to sound – as various fossil-fuel companies have found out when trying to get Indigenous communities to agree to let pipelines and other extractive projects into their lands (see Klein). And this position baffles and stymies the power-structure who only understand greed and competition (see Klein). Moreover, people will risk and sacrifice everything for what/who they love, up to and including safety and even life (see again Klein’s work for amazing and inspiring examples). As Naomi Klein says in This Changes Everything, “love will save this place”. Indeed, I would argue it is the only thing that can, but only if people believe that their love can carry them forward into a world transformed for the better. If they believe their love is doomed, though, then they will feel doomed as well and act accordingly. And that would be a vast and unnecessary tragedy when, if we can but activate the great love people already have for their particular piece of the world, we really do have the power to change everything! But as has been said at every climate march since the massive one in New York City in 2014, “to change everything, we need everyone”. So we’d better make sure we don’t exclude anyone!

Naomi Klein (2014). This Changes Everything. Simon and Schuster.

Naomi Klein (2017). No Is Not Enough: Resisting the New Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. Penguin Random House (which division varies by country).
(Note, outside of the U.S. it’s published as No Is Not Enough: Resisting the New Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.)

Naomi Klein (2018). The Battle For Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes On the Disaster Capitalists. Haymarket Books.

Note, all of these are available in unabridged audiobook as well.

Phanship on the #Trans Spectrum. #TransDayofRemembrance #gender #PhantomoftheOpera

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So I’m going to do a podcast episode on this at some point. But because today is Trans Day of Remembrance, I wanted to take some space to talk about my own gender journey. Because, although today is about remembrance, it’s also about breaking silence! And I suspect that I’m often read as a cis ally because I can (sometimes) pass for cis female. So I want to add my voice to those of other Trans-spectrum folks today speaking to and for our realities and existence! Because silence, stereotyping and erasure are part of what cause us to need a Trans Day of Remembrance. They’re part of what create the conditions that enable so much violence against Trans people, including poverty and hyper-precarity. And I’m one of those folks with the privilege of it being relatively safe to be out – which is definitely not the case for way too many people. So I sort of feel like I have a responsibility to do so! That great slogan from the AIDS crisis: “silence = violence”.

Part of the reason it’s taken so long for me to be out, though, is erasure. For the longest time, I literally didn’t have words for my experience of gender. And finding them has been a long (and I suspect on-going) struggle! This is partly because, growing up in the 80s and 90s, for most of my formative years, I had no idea there were options other than girl, which I was assigned at birth but increasingly didn’t fit in the traditional definition of, and boy which didn’t fit either! And then, even when I started to learn about Transgender, I didn’t know any Trans people personally, so what I knew came from media. And that gave me a very rigid, narrow picture of what Trans was – a straight-forward transition from your assigned gender to your felt gender, based on feeling that you were “born into the wrong body”. The only other models I had were androgyny/gender-blending. Basically, all the gender narratives I knew told me you had to choose girl, boy or neither. It took me a long time to find models of, and words for, moving back and forth between two genders. I’d heard of gender-fluidity, but, the way it had always been presented to me, it sounded like blending genders rather than moving back and forth between them. Indeed, it wasn’t till I heard a certain episode of the awesome Off The Cuffs podcast that I realized gender-fluid could mean that, and had an example of some one living it. And I was like “You can do that? It’s a legit thing? Really? Oh Wow!”.

And this lack of language, unfortunately, caused Phantom and my Phanship to inadvertently become part of this erasure of my gender. Though, I hate to say that! But it’s true. Because, of course, the story of Phantom is very much told in a cis, gender-binaried, hetero-romantic idiom. The masculine Phantom loves the super-femme Christine. So, as I’ve talked about in a previous post, without language to articulate an alternative, that set up a feeling that I had to choose. It’s only recently dawned on me that being/doing both, and/or moving back and forth between the two is actually an option. And in truth, I’m still figuring out how the hell that works, especially in terms of the love-story! Straight? Queer? Femme for femme? Masc for femme? POli so I can access both sides of the love-story? Yeah, I’m still confused on that score.

But of course, as a Phan, naturally I want to express my gender/s through Phantom! Because, just as Phantom has profoundly shaped and informed my Disabled identity, so too has it profoundly shaped my sense of gender – both desire and presentation. The first model of masculinity that really powerfully impacted me was the Phantom, especially of the ALW stage-musical, and especially as portrayed by Colm Wilkinson! And I learned how to do Femme from Sarah Brightman’s Christine, especially during Angel of Music and the Title Song as I perceived them! But to figure out how to do both, or to move between them, meant Queering the story in ways I’m only beginning to have the tools to do. In particular, the challenge, for me at least, is to Queer the story so that it becomes fully accessible to folks like me without sacrificing the romance – the “story of deep, dark, dangerous, passionate love” to quote a documentary on the Toronto production – that’s so central to Phantom, and is so much a part of what resonates so powerfully with us Phans!

And this latter work is critically important, because Phantom is a story about the terrible mental and spiritual consequences of exclusion and marginalization. But it also, as I’ve argued elsewhere, contains a powerful call to action to end that marginalization and exclusion, and to heal the trauma caused by it. So it seems to me that it’s critically important that we Phans not allow Phantom itself to contribute to the silencing and erasure of people on account of their colour and/or their lack of conformity to the gender binary! I’m heartened, though, that I’m starting to see this be done. In particular, I’ve finally started to come across well-written Phanfics that explicitly seek to “gender-bend” the story, and others that less explicitly take up other areas of intersectionality. But there’s a lot more need and room for further creative Queering!!