Monthly Archives: March 2023

Beware the Ides of March…

The other day, as I left a store and walked out on to the pavement, the sky was a deep lavender colour with a streak of blazing orange underneath it all. The sun was setting, and I stopped and stared at. I reached for my phone to snap a photo, but I realized it was fading too fast to both enjoy and take a picture. So, I left it in my pocket.

We live under a tyranny of screens. They dominate our consciousness. Small ones, big ones. Portable ones, and ones that stretch out over walls. They dictate how we feel. How we express. How we connect. What we share. And it often feels strange to detach from them, even for a blip of time.

So, instead of that sunset that I didn’t capture, I am posting this photo. It is out a window on to a park next to my sister’s house. The window covered with streaks of rain. Wind howling outside. Winter is giving us one last kick in the jaw before it retreats. And I know early spring will undoubtedly hold a few icy slaps and uppercuts for any of us who may dare feel too optimistic, too soon.

Winter is generally like this photo for me. Black and white. I’ve always felt that winter was like being a foreigner in a hostile land, and I’ve made no secret of that. I am not fluent in the native tongue, so I pantomime my way through its streets and back alleys. Perhaps it is the Mediterranean half of my ancestry that drives this lust for sunlight and warmth.

I didn’t even have to do any editing on this photo. Nature, itself, drained the colour from the frame. But I’ve gained a new appreciation for the strange, mercurial power it has. One day being so rich with luster, another day being devoid of any. And how it so often mirrors my own dark times of loss and grief. Devoid of colour, streaked with tears. A heaving beast that cannot seem to be sated by anything. But a power to be respected and reckoned with, nonetheless.

Tomorrow is the Ides of March. That place on the Roman calendar where debts are to be settled. A day we are supposed to be wary of. But I welcome it. And this storm seems a fitting end to winter. A debt paid. That, at least, felt very good. Because, whether it be on the calendar or within the soul, every season has a beginning and an end.

Kenn Orphan, March 2023

God in Drag

With the recent spate of vicious attacks on drag performers and drag shows, I’ve been thinking a lot about a brilliant quote by the late Ram Dass: “Treat everyone you meet as if they were God in drag.” And I think it gets to the heart of this manufactured controversy.

We are all in some kind of drag. If we live in community with other human beings, then we don our masks and costumes every time we walk out our front door. Most of us wear what our society expects us to wear. The masks and costumes created for us, not by us. We do this to fit in, to conform. But drag tosses all of this pretense out the window. It recognizes that identity is a construct, not a constant. In fact, there is nothing permanent about identity.

The irrational fear of drag queens and drag shows betrays a deep-seated fear of the authentic self. The self that transcends the ego. And it is driving this crusade against those who are daring to live their authentic lives out in the open. Drag is radical because its over-the-top form challenges the status quo definition of identity.

The claim that bans on drag shows are to “protect children” is ludicrous. Most drag shows are for adults, and those that aren’t, whether they are library readings or birthday parties, do not have adult content.

But it is worth reflecting upon our own childhood. A wondrous time when the characters of a story or a song came alive. Drag reminds us of a time when we could be whatever we wanted to be, regardless of gender, ethnicity, skin colour, religion, body shape or societal standing.

This freedom to be whatever we imagined ended for many when the first adult stepped in to shame us. Thus began the long, painful death of our imagination and the long slog toward banality.

And perhaps this is why it is feared so much by some. It makes them aware, whether conscious or not, of the drag they are currently wearing. Of its blandness and of the dissatisfaction it has caused them throughout their entire lives.

In the end, it comes down to what Ram Dass said. It comes down to how we treat other human beings. And if we saw the Divine spark behind the masks and costumes we all wear, how much better this world would be.

Kenn Orphan, March 2023