Gentle Loners: Interiority of Violent White Christian Men.
The interior of the space is lit in mirage hues, dappled lights caress smooth surfaces that bounce back liquidly, reverberating fantasy curves along the convexity of the observer’s optic world.
It’s made for them, meant to excite and titillate.
But their eyes can’t see backstage, and backstage is where our stories are.
Stories of sacrifice, survival, or inner needs satiated by the gaze of others; human stories.
Backstage, the lights are cold, sterile. You can see your pores, the expanse of your face lit in an unforgiving glare rendering you granular and porous, not the slick creature that will emerge bathed in pink or blue shimmering that transforms you into their dream, shining and wet.
These moments behind closed doors hidden from their sight are places were rivalry and friendships flourish. Stories are shared, embellished or softened, but still, laid bare in the kind of illumined reality that will dissipate in the neon-infused chiaroscuro of a night club.
When I sat backstage with the Lady Performers Of Asia, their stories unfurled like the petals of night-blooming orchids, slowly at first, as the trust gradually flowered, then freely, as roots reached out in the fecund realism of that light, in the earthiness and honesty of it.
The pain of transition, its price, its promise.
The complicated dynamics of men who desired them, my relation to them as both exotic and familial flora.
The continuum of their experiences coalesced into a realm near mine in that grating gleam, the smudged mirrors and the perfume thick air. I saw the moments before and after the show, the excitement of jubilant preparation and the withered exhaustion of the night’s end.
Being an object of desire is a trip.
What I didn’t yet understand was the interiority that one kept within during a performance. The way your own story beats fervent and alive, always thrumming its notes deep and hidden, infused in your core, cleaving to your being as you become smooth externality.
Glistening along the rind of another’s desire. You hold on to yourself because you’re the one who can, the only one who will.
Desire and disgust are an interesting admixture on a face, have you seen it?
The eyes moisten, a libidinal lubrication glazes them as the lips soften, sometimes part. But there’s steel there, judgment. A tension may flicker at the upper lip then, as the swoon of lust battles distain.
You are sexual, appealing, but vulgar. Something to watch and watch out for.
My time watching transgender women of Asian decent perform dance and lip-synch numbers, and my time as an exotic dancer in realms that were not exclusively homosexual, taught me about that look.
The dance of straining facial muscles that indicates rapt entrancement and weary scorn.
It’s this synthesis I’ve seen propagating on the pallid planes of white men’s faces most, as if the surface yields most perfectly to such an amalgamation, as if that battle of want and derision plays most smoothly across that screen.
Unused to being revealed, perhaps that’s why it’s so apparent. The observer doesn’t need to hide from the observed.
One must gaze back, holding their own story, one must be a cipher and a vessel.
Repression and fetishization are entwined, in my mind.
The impetus to control and demarcate one’s own impulses of longing and project them onto a rubric of hierarchy creates a fetishized object, for men who see only their own humanity, their own stories as the foundation of human experience.
This view infuses one’s own existence into blazing light, in the blinding rays of supreme righteousness, it creates unknown shadows. Areas that are forbidden, and we can consider what such a mind obscures from itself in the taboo.
A fetish object is a doll, a plaything, something that is seeped in the viewer’s own hidden places, one can put their own fears, lapses, and obsessions into such a creature.
They are not fully dimensional beings, but shadow figures, instilled with the power to lure, to beguile, to lead to temptation.
Desire and disgust dance across the screen of white male Christian culture, as they always have.
It’s a lens that can humanize those that extinguish the lives of The Other, for “having a bad day”, as we’ve seen recently in the murders in Atlanta.
We’ve seen this before, this exploration of the interiority of white men who kill is commonplace, the “gentle loner,” as the New York Times described the shooter of a Planned Parenthood, or the shooter who killed churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina being “… not problematic” according to his captors.
We can deduce that the lens of law enforcement aligns with this lens of assumed selfhood for the white Christian man, because that is the vision it serves, the vision it fundamentally sees with.
But this instance in Atlanta allows us to question something other than entitled rage. It allows us to interrogate that searing meniscus that watches people and obscures their humanity while desiring their flesh.
This isn’t as simple as burning hatred, not as clean as a fanatical will to power, this is also about longing.
The shooter in Atlanta had “… a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” as a representative of the law put it, unsurprisingly.
I feel we must interrogate this intersection, not only the places where we see dehumanization with repulsion and wrath, but where those feelings merge and collide with lust.
What is the sexualized relationship that white Christianity has with The Other, and how does this viewership obscure both its desire and shadow in the forms of those it considers less human, less pure, less clean?
The shooter’s evangelical background makes this inquiry easier for us, but that shouldn’t suggest that these dynamics aren’t at play and more subtly patterned into the foundation of our social fabric.
The demonization of The Other can reveal what is seen as unholy, but what is unholy can also be desired.
This desire in the Christian framework is externalized, the lure of a siren, a temptress a demon.
“The Devil made him do it.”
The white hot rod of condemnation falls over the heads of those that dare to be both alluring and Other. White Christianity does not recognize desire blooming from within, but ensnaring from without.
The white Christian man, as human, is under threat from external forces, his internal purity tested by outer agents.
It’s this dynamic that has been collectively illuminated for us, that we must consider, both in the narratives that we accept from our cultural arbiters and from the enforcers of law, that uphold and protect humanity selectively.
My experiences have shown me the humanity that is discriminatively assumed by culture and authority. Now, communally, we can begin to witness the myopia of our lens as a society.
We can assume an interiority in those who have been massacred, who have been shot, who have swung from a rope because a white Christian man was “at the end of his.” We can grapple with the relationship of Christianity, whiteness, law and culture that sees some desires as unholy temptations outside of human understanding.
When considering the lives of Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Hyun Jung Grant, Soon Chung Park, and the countless others who ignited in god-fearing men irreconcilable passions, we can imbue them with consciousness, concerns, fears and passions of their own.
We can begin to expand our understanding, and pierce the opacity of the blazing white veil the church has used to obscure the inner worlds of others.
Maren Zweifler enjoys teaching Yoga with a focus on free movement and intrinsic shapes, emphasizing spinal fluidity and innate, primal posture. Deeply inspired by movement systems that embrace nature like Sridaiva and Continuum Movement. He completed a 500-hour certification in SF and has taught both there and in Austin where he honed his skills teaching private classes tailored to the individual needs of his clients. He created a wellness/yoga program at a non-profit. These experiences allowed him to explore both the unique individuation of the physical experience in one-on-one sessions, and the commonalities of the human form that can be witnessed in large groups. You could connect with Maren on Instagram.