My friend Liz’s new graphic memoir, Tomboy, was released on Tuesday. Reading all of the interviews and press she’s been getting this week has been a true joy for me. It’s also made me want to write publicly about why I find her book so meaningful (beyond it being an awesome work of art by a very close friend).
In America, the public conversation (not to mention the actual law) around sexual orientation has evolved a lot over the last few decades. Seeing and participating in this evolution has been heartening in some ways and discouraging in others. Specifically, while we seem capable of letting go of our assumptions about sexuality, our assumptions about gender stubbornly remain.
For those of you questioning that statement, consider how few public figures and characters we see who are either sexually non-conformist while being gender conformist, or vice versa. If you question that generalization as well, ask yourself: Are you surprised when you learn that a traditionally masculine male friend of yours is gay? Conversely, do you second-guess effeminate men who claim to be straight, assuming they just don’t realize that they’re actually gay?
Liz’s story invites us to decouple these two aspects of identity. The diversity of human personality suggests that sexuality and gender exist on independent axes. That is, one cannot necessarily derive another’s (or one’s own!) sexuality from their expression of gender.
For many this is not news – indeed, for many the statements above are just the tip of the iceberg. Still, many of Liz’s readers report being disappointed to get to the end of her book and find out she’s not gay. Such disappointment highlights our need to move past these stereotypes.
Liz’s book is a nuanced glimpse at how hurtful the lack of acceptance can be to a burgeoning psyche and, as such, Tomboy adds to the chorus of voices pushing us beyond our confining dichotomies.
In the wake of the President’s commencement address at West Point, NPR’s Steve Inskeep interviewed Barack Obama on Wednesday about foreign policy. Here’s how the interview began:
STEVE INSKEEP: I want to begin this way. You’re here at this historic place, trying to speak with a sense of history. And I was thinking of past presidents that I know you have studied and commented on. And a couple came to mind who were able to express what they were trying to do in the world in about a sentence. Reagan wanted to roll back communism by whatever means. Lincoln has a famous letter in which he says, I would save the union by the shortest means under the Constitution. As you look at the moment of history that you occupy, do you think you can put into a sentence what you are trying to accomplish in the world?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m not sure I can do it in a sentence because we’re fortunate in many ways. We don’t face an existential crisis. We don’t face a civil war. We don’t face a Soviet Union that is trying to rally a bloc of countries and that could threaten our way of life. Instead, what we have is, as I say in the speech, this moment in which we are incredibly fortunate to have a strong economy that is getting stronger, no military peer that threatens us, no nation-state that anytime soon intends to go to war with us. But we have a world order that is changing very rapidly and that can generate diffuse threats, all of which we have to deal with.
And I think that the most important point of the speech today for me is how we define American leadership in part is through our military might, but only in part, that American leadership in the 21st century is going to involve our capacity to build international institutions, coalitions that can act effectively, and the promotion of norms, rules, laws, ideals and values that create greater prosperity and peace, not just in our own borders, but outside as well.
A senior reporter at NPR gets the opportunity to interview the President about foreign policy and never once asks him about climate change.
To his credit, the President does mention it. Once. In a single sentence. About China.
This is what journalism and leadership look like in America in 2014.
While the idea that more desktop real estate means higher productivity seems sound, in practice I found it mostly just invited distraction.
The fact is, I can only look at one monitor at a time, so whether I’m turning my head or using a keyboard shortcut, I’m not ever going to be able to see code and output simultaneously without putting those two windows on the same monitor.