photo courtesy of NakedCityWichita.com.

Nutopia is a state of mind. When John Lennon and Yoko Ono announced the birth of their conceptual country in 1973, they were essentially envisioning a world where brands and boundaries bounded no one. Their April Fool’s stunt didn’t gain this peacenik nation sovereignty. It did, however, galvanize a mantra for solidarity; who you are and where you come from should have no credence on where you can go.

Thirty-eight years later this simple idea remains compellingly relevant. Isn’t it hypocritical, though, for a column with a moniker based largely on identity politics to champion the idea of a label-free world?  Sometimes associations have to be deconstructed before they can be set free.

The same month that Nutopia was conceived, homosexuality remained classified as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. Often times, “coming out” to family meant you would be “going in” to a mental institution. Consensual intercourse between adults of the same-sex was a statutory crime in most states.  Gay bars, many of which existed elusively and informally, were frequently raided by the police. The names of those arrested were often published in the paper the next day—a deterrent for “deviant behavior”.  Gay circumstance circa-1973 was anything but happy!

In an age where gay marriage is available two states away in Iowa, it may seem like I’m describing a different world. There’s a reason for that. Nearly four decades of dialogue about homosexuality has given rise to unprecedented freedoms and boundless possibilities for the future. That only happened, though, because people were willing to associate themselves with the labels of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. If you aren’t willing to tell someone what a word means to you, they’ll fill in the meaning with their own understandings. Often, those assumptions will get codified into laws that govern how much freedom you can enjoy!

It seems that many LGBTs in Wichita want to live in their own sovereign nation—one where only a select few know who they truly are. I know plenty of prominent people in The ICT whose closeted existence is rationalized on their abhorrence of group association. What is the consequence of such sentiment? Statutorily, this city’s laws regarding gays haven’t changed much since 1973. The social scene has only recently began to progress. Smaller cities than ours have thriving communities full of out, gay individuals whose talents and dollars contribute to the overall vitality of businesses and neighborhoods. The subtle message this silence sends is that if you want to be yourself, you best go somewhere else.

I say let’s dig in our heels and establish our own country, “Homotopia”! Anyone who dares speak their own truth gains instant citizenship. Closets bound you tighter than any association ever could. If we want to live in a boundary-free world, we need to start by tearing down our own walls.


Bite Back @ Valentine’s Day

As written for the BITE issue of Naked City.

Solo is Sensational

There’s nothing that bites more than being single this time of year. More than a simple day to force consumerism on the romantically entangled, Valentine’s has evolved into a full-on season. Even if you’re coupled, the Cupid hype can gnaw. The ruby-red pressure begins to mount as soon as the New Year’s Eve confetti is swept up. Nearly every store caters to the narrative that you’re nobody till somebody loves you– and is willing to spend lots of money on you. But you ARE somebody, and this February 14th, you should take the bite out of Valentine’s Day by biting into your own bliss!

It’s time to do that one thing you’ve always wanted. Is there a restaurant in town that you’ve been craving? You should go, and take yourself as your very special date. There currently is no local ordinance that prohibits an individual from dining alone on St. Valentine’s Day.  Is there a movie you want to see, but all your friends are on a date?  Go see it alone! The U.S. Constitution protects the right of single, adult individuals to publically assemble. Are you in the mood to dance? Venture out to a club, and sashay your sexy, solo self to the rhythm of the moment. While a legal Kansas marriage consists of one man and one woman, there’s no amendment banning single-sex dance floor movement…at least not yet!

Many are afraid of being alone in such situations, though, and that’s understandable. Several will cite fears of what other people will think of them if they are seen in public sans-partner. Others will claim personal uncomfortability with such bold public displays of self-solidarity. Why do we give other people so much power over our own satisfaction, though? And if you can’t sit down with yourself for dinner, what makes you think someone else will want to dine with you? Biting questions, I know.

The answers may be more tender than you think, though. Strong individuals make for stronger relationships. The more you know about yourself, the more you have to offer to someone else. Even if you’re partnered up, personal development is paramount. You have an identity and interest outside of your relationship that deserves cultivation.

Some of this language may seem supercilious, but isn’t the box we allow Valentine’s Day to put us into even more absurd? We’d all be a lot more fulfilled if we stopped waiting for someone else to make us happy and just acted upon the whims that bring us joy. Romance doesn’t define our existence. In fact, it’s the light that shines within each of us that is most attractive. If we don’t take time to fuel it, that radiance will dim.

So, bite back at forced romance, and get intimate with yourself this Valentine’s Day! Regardless of what your Facebook relationship status reads, V-Day is pretty much an over-hyped hassle for everyone. There’s bound to be something you’ve always wanted to do for yourself that you never have. There’s nothing that bites more than not doing what makes you happy!