Interview: Chesh

Today we’re joined by Chesh. Chesh is part of the duo behind Lani and Chesh; Only Confused About Taxes, a podcast that covers a wide variety of topics. I’ll leave the explaining to her, since she’ll do a much better job. Her description had me intrigued and I’ve already subscribed. It’s clear she’s a talented and dedicated artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I co-host a podcast with my QPR (queer platonic relationship) called Lani and Chesh; Only Confused About Taxes (or OCAT for short.) The title comes from a Tumblr post about bisexuality that talks about how bisexuals are not confused and it’s not a phase, etc. Someone responded that well, yes actually; they are a little confused about things like taxes. And it goes on from there. Since Lani is bi and I’m acearo, both “invisible” orientations often accused of just “being too young” or “being confused,” we decided it was the perfect tag-line.

OCAT is in constant transition as we figure out what works best for us, but basically it’s a show about two friends talking about the world. We want to highlight media that has great representation, honor religious traditions that are in the minority in the US, talk about current events, and discuss how to change the world for the better. There are personal anecdotes, political opinions, and plenty of laughs.

What inspires you?

My co-host inspires me a lot. For one, she has a number of neurodivergencies and physical ailments that can make it difficult for her to function in a so called “normal” fashion and despite that she marches on. She has so much passion and belief in the idea that we can change the world. I’ve always been more of a “well, guess we’re all fucked anyway, why bother?” kind of person. She takes “be the change you want to see in the world” (Gandhi I think?) to a phenomenal level. It’s due to her that we are starting Shatter Entertainment, a media company devoted to equal representation of race, gender, sexualities, and more. We want to create things like an all-female cast recording of Newsies, write children’s books about the some of the amazing women of the past that history as we know it ignores, and create tv shows and movies that have strong women, LGBTQPIA, POC, Disabled, and everyone else that current media often ignores or lets down. Changing the world requires changing what the world sees. She truly believes she can make that happen. I want to help.

I’m also pretty inspired by the change we are currently seeing in the world, right now. Movies like the new Ghostbusters and Ocean’s Eight. Shows like Shadowhunters and B99. There are openly trans individuals in government and more and more people are willing to stand up and say “this is me.” Yeah, we have a REALLY long way to go, but at least we’re going. If I can contribute to that, even peripherally, I’d be honored.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

Lani walked up to me (virtually; I think it was a text message) about a year ago and said “hey, would you co-host a show with me. It’s gonna be the starting point for my new company.” That’s it. That’s what got me interested in the field. We’re pretty funny together and as queer individuals on the millennial/gen z divide, we have a unique perspective on life and society. Podcasting as an art doesn’t interest me specifically. I’m an organizer by nature. I schedule and edit; I’m a fixer (in a non-mafia kinda way.) OCAT, and anything that follows, gives me a way to influence society as a whole, to maybe make it better. Lani’s the creative half. That being said, there is so much more to podcasting then I ever realized. There is a ton to learn and plenty of room to grow. Editing, marketing, planning; it never ends!!

I’ve always wanted to do art on some level. I’ve dabbled in poetry, fiction, painting, origami, piano, guitar, recorder, etc. I’m actually not too bad at the poetry and basic origami. But, because of my depression, I’ve never followed through on much of anything. OCAT is an amazing opportunity for another chance. I have Lani supporting me, a larger goal to dream of and focus on, and there are so many options and opportunities that the podcast does, or potentially may, link me to.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

We’re a bit too new to have developed anything like that, really. Mostly, we just try to be honest, optimistic, and grateful towards all the amazing people who have helped and inspired us.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

It’s super cliché, but practice and don’t give up. You are probably going to suck when you first start at whatever it is you’re doing. There will probably be people who are assholes about that fact. But we can’t all be Mozart’s. And, most of all, YOU HAVE TIME!!! So many of us in the millennial/gen z generations have had it indoctrinated into us that we have to have it all figured out by the time we’re 18. That is bullshit!! Pick a subject you enjoy for your undergraduate, instead of a profitable career path that you don’t really even like. Pursue a new skill even though you suck and there doesn’t appear to be any money in it. Jump from field to field for a while; become a jack of all trades, master of none. Study Buddhism or Paganism or Christianity or investigate a new religious movement. Some of the most well-known people of our time didn’t “figure it out” until their 40’s or 50’s or 60’s. Yes you probably could be like that teenager who started a successful shampoo empire or that musical protégé everyone knows of, but you probably aren’t and that’s OKAY!  Take your time, experiment, and realize that you and life can and will get better!

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I typically use AceAro (asexual, aromantic) as my chosen identity terms. Sexuality wise, while I certainly experience aesthetic appreciation, I’ve never looked at someone and gone “I’d like to fuck that.” The idea of being in a relationship/having sex with a celebrity or some random on the street, which the allos in my life assure me is normal, has never made sense. I don’t know them and they’re probably WAY older then I am. And they don’t know me, so it’s always seemed kinda creepy. Plus, I’ve never been turned on just by someone’s appearance which made ace the best descriptor for me. Confidence is attractive. A certain face or body? Nah, not so much.

Romantically speaking, while I usually use aromantic for simplicity’s sake, I identify more as quoiromantic, which basically means I don’t understand what romance is. What makes something romantic rather than platonic? There’s a difference? It’s hard to look at someone and think “I’d like to be in a romantic relationship with that person” when you don’t really know what romance is. The term comes for the French world for “what,” which is, really, just spot on!

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Not specifically in my fields/professions, no. OCAT is too new to have made any sort of waves in the podcast/communication community, so it’s never really come up. In my 9-5 job, it just hasn’t been worth discussing. I’m the youngest person in my office by over 20 years in a conservative part of the country. My coworkers would simply be confused if I tried to tell them I was this new-fangled thing called “asexual/aromantic”, and I haven’t deemed it worth trying to explain to a bunch of grandmothers who still struggle to understand that people can be gay. They try, but they struggle. So I just don’t say anything.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

The idea that it’s a “phase.” When I came out to my step-father, he told me that it just wasn’t believable because I was “too young.” Maybe he’d believe me if I was in my 40’s or something. (That’s a direct quote and this from a man who’s known he was gay since he was FIVE.) My mother thinks that I’m only ace because of my depression. Which 1)even if that’s true, it doesn’t make me any less ace; identity is still valid even if its influenced by outside factors and 2) has more to do with her discomfort with labels then with me. My step-father still tries to set me up with any male who happens to interact with my social media or that I talk about even briefly (it’s really kinda creepy. Helped me realize I was being stalked on social media once). Because allos experience sexual attraction and it’s so consistently reinforced in society, people have trouble conceptualizing that some of us just…don’t.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Take a second, breath. You don’t have to have this all figured out. Identity is fluid and there are so many terms and labels out there, ranging from the general to the specific. Do some research, follow some Tumblr blogs, join a chat room or 12 on Discord. AVEN is a great starting point. The Invisible Orientation is a really good book on sexual and romantic identity in general, although it does focus on asexuality. I defaulted as straight until my sophomore year of college when I saw a presentation put on by the university’s sexual and gender diversity club. I didn’t find the aromantic label until a year later and didn’t use it until I got three months into a relationship and realized I wanted nothing to do with romance or relationships. It was another year or two after that that I found quoi and realized that’s what had happened between me and my ex-girlfriend; I’d taken a platonic friendship too far. Talk with someone you trust; I can’t count the number of conversations and freak-outs Lani has walked me through and vice-versa. Try a term for a while. If it doesn’t fit, try another. We are the children and grandchildren of people who thought gay could be cured and gender is binary. We are all figuring this out as we go along with barely a foot path to follow, if that. It’s okay to be uncertain.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

OCAT can be found on GooglePlay and iTunes as well as on the company website www.shattertheentertainment.com. If you like us, remember to like, subscribe, and comment. We can also be found on Twitter (at LaniandChesh and at yerawizardlani) Tumblr (at foiblefoldandflail and at yerawizardlani) and feel free to email us at laniandchesh@gmail.com. We would love to hear from you!

Thank you, Chesh, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

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