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Dalí is a person of the changeling sex, living in a future world within the domain of the Sol Fed government. Dalí is an ambassador for Sol Fed.

A changeling is someone whose body is neither inherently female nor male but can be either of those, changing structurally according to need and circumstance. Changelings are empathic, picking up on the emotions of people around them, and tend to morph their bodies to match desires and expectations, although they can also shift their shapes on their own whim.

Changelings are a minority and a fairly recent phenomenon, and are targets of hate crimes in this future world. Many people condemn them as unnatural freaks. Dalí's life has been upended by such violence: Dalí's two spouses, Gresh and Rasida, were murdered, and Dalí is still ripped up by it, scarcely caring whether they lives or dies.

Yes, two spouses. Dalí is poly. Polyamorous marriages are common in this future world. But they don't usually involve changelings and some folks are so creeped out by the idea of changelings marrying and consorting with normal folks that the prospect brings them to violence.

Dalí gets recruited to participate in undercover work to investigate these hate crimes. They ends up in jeopardy, a prisoner of a cosmic black market trader where, along with other captured changelings they is kept in a luxurious suite but faces the prospect of being sold as a sex slave.

Sharing those quarters are two other changelings, Dru and Kai. They have no idea that Dalí is working undercover and has allies who are working to spring them.

Holding the keys to their comfortable cage is Lord Rhix, he who rules this black-market domain. Rhix is the amoral vicious gangster feared by the traders and slavers and other denizens of the market, or so it initially seems, but when we get a closer look we discover a barbarian of principle, an evil lord whose stomach turns at some of the techniques of his predecessors. An enlightened hoodlum, he.

The person whose actions most directly got Dalí into this situation is Jon Batterson, son of the Sol Fed president and very much a spoiled powerful privileged wealthy villain, athletically powerful and arrogant. He is one of the bigoted haters and we learn pretty early that he's immersed in the kidnapping and selling of changelings, a convenient way to rid the Sol Fed system of unnatural freaks while profiting economically from their disposal.

Jon Batterson has a battered wife, or, rather, ex-wife. Tella Sharp escaped him and coincidentally happens to be the provider of nursing care when Dalí is recovering from Batterson's assault on her in the space station corridors. Tella finds Dalí enticing and returns for some steamy aftercare in Dalí's quarters.


DALÍ is a delightful gender fantasy. How totally fine, to be able to match one's body to one's gender of the moment, including a convenient neuter when you feel like it!

Yes, it does manage to echo the notion--held strongly by cisgender bigots and even loosely by some transgender folks (truscum)--that to properly be a given gender, your body must correspond. Being a changeling can be conceptualized as sex reassignment surgery on-the-fly, or, as Dalí's partner Rasida's journal article expressed it in the book, "A natural progression allowing transgenderism to correct itself".

But there's nothing in DALÍ that opposes ideas of gender variance that do not involve physical transitioning, and I just can't bring myself to be curmudgeonly enough to resent or criticize the formulation: it's just too damn deliciously cool. I don't have physical dysphoria and despite identifying as a gendered feminine I have never rejected my physical maleness, but if I could have a body that could speak either physical language? Hell yes, that would be more fun than being able to fly like Superman!

DALÍ avoids the pestersome problem of pronouns by using first person. "I walked down the corridor" instead of he, she, they, or some other formulation doing so. There are third party attributions of Dalí's gender--such as Brian, Jon Batterson's little brother down in the Rosetta Labyrinth referring to Dalí as "she"--but because they are third party designations of gender, we, the readers, may dissent.

There is hotness in this book. DALÍ gives us a sensuous and often horny changeling. I appreciated some of the departures from clichés that surround sexual shapeshifting characters in fantasy and science fiction, especially Tella Sharp directly lusting after Dalí as theirself, as opposed to seeking either a male or a female, and the scenes with Rhix in which Dalí is betwixt and between sexual morphologies and is manifesting with external tingly parts. That's seldom done: most tales featuring someone who can sexually shapeshift have the character bedding boys when shaped like a girl and doing girls when configured as a boy.

I was never very clear on the distinction the book attempts to make between "third gender" and "changeling". There are people who are described as "third gender"; and then "changeling" is either a subset of that or else a new and different (yet similar) thing. Tella Sharp, while examining and treating Dalí, says

"I studied third-gender anatomy, of course, but each person’s genitalia varies according to their dominant sex." Her fair complexion bloomed with rosy color as she discussed my genitals. "You don’t have one."


Seems to me that either a "third gender" person in this universe has physical anatomy that corresponds permanently to their "dominant sex", which differs from being cisgender only in the implication that they may also have a "non-dominant" sex (but we aren't told what a "non-dominant sex" actually is or what it does for a living); or else being "third gender" means one's physical anatomy is flexible and can change, in which case being "third" doesn't differ in any readily discernable way from being a changeling. As an atypical genderqueer person myself, far be it from me to cast aside or look askance at anyone else's gender identity just because I don't understand why the heck we need this additional category, but as a configuration within a work of fiction that doesn't explain it or utilize it more fully, I don't think it adds anything to the story.

Dru and Kai, the other two changelings in the story, don't change. Not because they can't, it just doesn't transpire that they ever do. Dru presents as female with a purseful of stereotypical femininity, while Kai is perennially male and manifests with textbook masculine traits throughout. I think it would have been more interesting to see Dalí interact with other changelings, but these are ersatz changelings, these two. They get gendered pronouns. Dru is all "she" and "her", and Kai is totally a "he" and "him" person throughout. Only Aja, a changeling who doesn't survive long enough to become conscious, is a "they".

Jon Batterson is a bit of a cardboard cutout, a bit too much unrelieved portrayal as stupid and dense, evil and deceitful; there's no individual and no allied group or contingent in the book which were ever in Batterson's personal orbit that he doesn't betray as soon as the opportunity presents.

The dynamic going on between Lord Rhis and Dalí is full-on neogothic: a brooding evil captor who turns out to be chock-full of ethical and moral concerns and is therefore worthy of the MC's love, and the MC can get through his emotional armor and cause him to love her too. I do love a well-delivered gothic romance and I liked the departure from conventional gothic trajectory too: the absence of any full reconciliation after he discovers Dalí's true identity as spy. Their departure scenes are more akin to heroic male opponents who express a grudging respect for their adversary. How appropriate! Well done.

DALÍ, by E. M. Hamill. NineStar Press.
E. M. Hamill

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ahunter3: (Default)
This is a question that I get fired at me from time to time when I talk about being genderqueer.

I don't think someone should have to come up with a proposed solution or social change strategy before being allowed to complain about an unpleasant situation. And I do think that the "well, then, what's your recommendation?" response is sometimes used as a tactic for shutting people up (or making us look foolish for not having a good answer). But that doesn't mean it's never a legitimate question.

I'm not particularly interested in acquiring a virtual ruler and going around smacking misbehaving people for using the wrong words or expressing tastes and preferences that leave me out or expressing opinions about people like me that are less than warm, accepting, and welcoming.

Yeesh, that sounds awfully judgmental towards people who get upset about being misgendered, or folks who are sick and tired of surface-level "tolerance" that is sprinkled with derogatory comments and jokes. And I don't mean to be pointing fingers at them and saying that they're doing it wrong or are asking things of people that aren't reasonable and fair.

But my head is in a different place. I don't face a lot of judgmental hostility from people who harbor hate for genderqueer people. I don't suffer from the cruel barbs of demeaning jokes and quips about genderqueer people and what they are like and how they behave. I might not like it if and when I start getting a periodic dose of that kind of thing, but for now that would be a step forward.

Oh, sure, I have experienced hostility, but the hostile people were expressing hostility towards gay guys. Or towards transgender gals. Or towards sissy feminine male people. The people with the hostility have not tended to make a distinction there. I think we're mostly all the same to the ones who hate us. But amidst the hateful rhetoric about men who have sex with other men, and men who become women, I seldom feel directly targeted so much as hit by the general spatter.

They, along with the liberal accepting tolerant folks, haven't heard enough from my ilk to get a good stereotype or caricature going.


My partner just forwarded me a link to a thread on a message board where someone posted to ask why he gets so much pressure to transition to female. He identifies as a cross-dresser. His situation is different from mine: he gets a sexual thrill from dressing in feminine clothes and from embracing femininity in general. He says "I am a Man. I am straight"; and his connection with the feminine is, as he puts it, all about "my sexuality not my sex". And yet, because people are more familiar with what it is to be transgender -- what the personal story-lines are, what the typical narrative is -- he gets told that he's never going to be happy until and unless he transitions.

He says that's totally not true; like me, his identity and experience are different, although certainly there's some overlap with that of transgender people.

I can relate to all that. In 1979 as a University of New Mexico student, the assumption was not that I was trans but that I was gay, but I, too, was the recipient of warmly-intended compassionate friendly advice, that I should accept myself, that I should come out.

People are often amazingly tolerant of identities that they can understand.



What do I want?

I want to shoehorn in a new concept, a new category, into people's mental set of boxes, their notions of the kind of people who exist and whom they might encounter.

Partly because I believe that the hostility depends, in a weird sense, on conflating sexual orientation, sexual identity, and gender identity, and that understanding them as different things challenges the hostility.

Partly because I think a lot of people are like me, and if the world has the head-space to understand us, we'll be understood and accepted for who we are. Instead of for who we are not.

Partly because -- and a respectful tip of the hat, here, towards Walter Becker of Steely Dan, who just passed away -- as the Steely Dan song "Deacon Blues" puts it,

"They got a name for the winners in the world,
I want a name when I lose"

... I want a somewhat-recognizable rendition of my identity to be out there, whether people accept and admire it or not. Naturally, I would like to be accepted and celebrated for who I am, but if I can't have that it is still better to be rejected and hated for who I am than for who I am not.


----

I got a rather late rejection notice from a literary agent yesterday. At this point, all queries to lit agents have been marked in some fashion -- either as overt rejections or as "No reply within 3 months" which counts as a rejection. The same is true of queries to publishers, except that there's an additional status there: accepted for publication

No queries are outstanding at this point. And at least until next book, my querying days are over, and good riddance. Here's the final tally:


The Story of Q — total queries to Lit Agents = 974
Rejections: 974
.. as nonfiction: 748
.. as fiction: 226

The Story of Q — total queries to Publishers = 31
Rejections: 29
Accepted for Publication then Publisher Went out of Business: 1
Accepted for Publication (current): 1

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ahunter3: (Default)
This was something new, a phenomenon for which there was no name.

Galileo saw that the small "stars" surrounding Jupiter were MOVING, following Jupiter in the sky and, furthermore, shifting in their relative locations. They were orbiting Jupiter. Jupiter had objects of its own that were like the earth's moon!

"Moon", at that time, was a term that specifically meant THE Moon, the one and only. Galileo did not, in fact originally refer to them as "moons"; in his first distributed description of his discovery, he called them "Medicean stars" (allegedly hoping this would please the powerful de Medici family).

That term didn't stick. From our vantage point, it's easy to see that calling them "stars" was a poor long-range choice, as they aren't stars and don't have much in common with stars aside from being points of light in the sky. And yet, even so, the rocky little objects orbiting between Mars and Jupiter are still called "asteroids", which is almost as much of a misnomer, so it's possible that "Medicean stars" could have hung on as the new term.

We could have given them entirely new names, of course, without repurposing any existing terms (with or without modifiers like "Medicean"). Or we could have said they were objects that were LIKE the Moon, although that doesn't give them a name.

We call them "moons". The original understanding of the word "moon" was modified, expanded from referencing only the ghostly galleon that illuminates the earthly sky so as to include these similar bodies that orbit other planets.

As you'll recall from your English homework, calling the Moon a "ghostly galleon" is "using a metaphor". Calling the objects orbiting Jupiter "stars" is also a sort of metaphor, and in the context where "Moon" specifically meant our moon, calling them "moons" is an application of language use that is cousin to the metaphor. Our own moon is not literally a galleon (or ghostly) nor are the objects orbiting Jupiter literally stars; a moon orbiting Jupiter is also not identically the same thing as the moon that folks in Galileo's time already knew, and to some people it might have seemed wrong to extend the meaning of "moon" to the new objects.

The success of a literary metaphor depends on the reader's or audience's tendency to embrace the compelling significance of what the compared items have in common. There's always a certain tension between the "wrongness" of asserting an identity that the object doesn't quite literally have, on the one hand, and the "rightness" of the observed similarity that makes us nod in recognition.

Successfully expanding the definition of a word--like "moon" to embrace the new Galilean objects--also involves a tension between the fact that the word's original meaning did not include them versus the compelling similarities that makes such an expanded use resonate with us as sensible and appropriate.

Stating, on the other hand, that the Galilean objects surrounding Jupiter are like the Moon is "using a simile". A simile avoids that tension; it doesn't have that level on which it is using a word to mean something beyond the zone in which it has been applied before. Linguistically, it is a weaker formulation, because it comes with an implicit "except for", a gesture towards the dissimilarities that may exist whether they are specifically laid out or not.

Suppose a feminine male person chooses to say "I am LIKE a girl" or "I am LIKE one of the women". It is, on the one hand, a formulation less likely to provoke a response of "No you're not" than the statements "I am one of the women" or "I'm a girl". On the other hand, it's weaker; hovering around it is an invisible codicil that says "except for these ways in which I'm not". And it also doesn't give a name to the speaker of the statement.

That doesn't mean I haven't used it, myself. In fact I've often said something to the effect of "I am a male who is like a girl or woman except for having a male body". And because that doesn't provide an identity-name (because, as I said, similes don't), I've called myself various NEW things like "invert" or attempted to seize on other existing terms like "sissy". But at a certain point in my life, a partner of mine listened at great length to my descriptions and my backstory and she nodded and said "Oh, I get it, you're a girl!"

I liked it. It had a definite "cut to the chase" directness to it and it emphasized exactly the connection I wanted people to realize in their heads.

I do get those "no you're not" responses from people. There are a lot of folks who resist the expanded word use, the claimed identity--some because they only consider people born female with XX chromosomes to be girls & women, some because they only consider people who are morphologically female to be girls & women, and some because they only consider people who represent themselves to other people as physically female to be girls & women.

Such attitudes are not exactly uncommon. Check out these opinions, in which folks reject anything other than a "two genders maximum" world, even among some who accept the validity of transgender people.

On the other side of things--our side of this argument--there is a lot of resentment among gender atypical, nonbinary, etc people about having our identities refused, our self-definitions rejected. I'm familiar with that firsthand: when someone does the "no you're not" thing in response to my self-identification, yeah, it's intrusively arrogant and sure as hell not reassuring when they attempt to explain to me who I am instead. But the goal, for me, isn't really to get everyone to use my terminology. Well, OK, I do recognize that appearances may be to the contrary... I do have some ego investment and a fondness for the order and pattern I choose, so yeah I PREFER that folks use my terminology! It makes me angry when they refuse to! But even so, I'll say it again: my primary goal isn't to get everyone to use my terminology.

In your schema, in your way of seeing the world and categorizing things and so on, maybe my maleness is of more categorical importance to you than my femininity. If you prefer to conceptualize me as a "guy who is like a girl" in ways other than the physical, I don't reject that formulation, even though I resent being contradicted. I suppose we do all tend to altercast other people within the privacy of our own heads, categorizing them into the identities we perceive them as.

But do not say I am just a guy who is like a girl. Do not say I am merely a male who has feminine characteristics. There's no "just" or "merely" about it. In stating my identity I am making a big deal of it and saying this is a Difference, something that sets me and my experience apart. On that one, do me the courtesy of not rejecting that claim, at least not until you've taken time to hear my story.

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ahunter3: (Default)
PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT A:

Somebody I'm friends with on Facebook posts this on an LGBT message board: "I made my decision not to go on hormones, and that was a personal choice".

One of the first replies posted was: "Honey I'm sorry... actually I'm not.. if you are not taking the steps to become a woman.. you are not trans.. you are simply a feminine gay man... stop confusing people and making it harder for real Trans people."


PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT B:

On a different message board, I am replying to someone who has referred to me dismissively as "a cisgendered straight guy who really wants to be a sexual minority so he can be part of a movement".

I reply tersely: "No". He quotes that and replies "Yes".

I write: "Being a straight male — being heterosexual — isn't just 'you have boy parts and your sexual attraction is for people who have girl parts'. (If you disagree with that you aren't leaving any room for a transgender lesbian, who, prior to surgery, has "boy parts". Maybe you and your friends consider transgender lesbians to be "straight males" up until they transition, I don't know)"

And to THAT he replies: "I would consider Trans people as the Gender they feel they are, whether they've had surgery or not.

That isn't at all relelvant to your case because YOU AREN'T TRANS! Transgendered people try to live as their preferred gender to the best their social and financial circumstances permit. If they can, they will fully transition, though sadly that isn't possible for a lot of people. You aren't doing that."



PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT C:


On a Facebook-based chat, I have this exchange with yet another person:

Other Person: Your [sic] Gay...A man to have female tendency is a GAY Man how hard is that???....my gawed!!!!!


Allan Hunter: Not hard at all, not for male-bodied people. Which is why I don't identify as GAY, I'm a male-bodied girl who is attracted to female-bodied people. If I identified as gay, people would assume it meant I was attracted to MALE-bodied people, now wouldn't they?

Other Person: Well you can't be Lesbian...

Other Person: Your straight and you like women

Allan Hunter: I don't identify as lesbian because I am male, and lesbians in general do not consider male-bodied people to share that identity with them.

I don't identify as a straight man because I am a girl, or a sissy or a feminine person if you prefer, and straight males have made it loudly and specifically apparent that they don't consider people like me to be men, nor do I wish to be seen as one of them. Also, "straight" means more than "people with female equipment and people with male equipment getting it on". Heterosexuality is gendered, with specific and polarized expectations of the male and the female person -- a "man" role and a "woman" role. I'm a woman or girl and both my identity and the relationships and partners available to me are quite different.

Of course it may be your intention to call "bullshit" on this and say "we don't want your kind and do not consider that you belong". I'm kind of used to that. Rather than just putting my fingers in my ears and saying "no ur wrong", I'd rather go into this with you if you're so inclined. Why is my identity invalid and yours valid? Couldn't I just as easily say "You're a woman like any other, there are no 'gay people', you're just a woman, that's all there are is women and men, and you're making a big deal out of irrelevant things that don't matter"?? {edited: changed gender references}


Other Person: I just said you can't be Lesbian!!!!!

Allan Hunter: Other Person: I agree. I can't be lesbian. I can't be gay. I can't be a straight man. I'm not bi. And transgender doesn't fit either. It's something else.

Allan Hunter: The female people I'm attracted to tend to be butch. Some identify as guys / bois / men. If anyone is going to be the top it isn't going to be me. It's different from being a straight guy, trust me.

Other Person: Then that's your problem....since you strongly believe your A women...Then you need to get a sex change...let's see if that makes you happy.



PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT D:


Back in January, I sent my standard query letter to a publisher that publishes LGBT titles. My cover letter explains that THE STORY of Q is specifically a genderqueer coming-out story. In fact, it was roughly the same cover letter that I posted here back in Sept 2014.

In due course, the editor wrote back: "I finished this yesterday, and after discussing it with the publisher, we're going to have to take a pass on this. It's not a transgender book and definitely not a gay book, so finding a large enough readership to make this economically viable would be tough."

I send this reply, cc'ing my publicist, John Sherman, whom I've been working with: "That is correct. I thought you knew that. It's something else."

My publicist replies to me, responding to my cc: "Yes, it’s something else. Could the subtitle perhaps have been the first clue? Jeez."




** ahem ** [clears throat]

Let's get one thing str... I mean, let's NOT get one thing straight, but let's at least get one thing established, dammit.

I'm not trying to "join" an existing sexual or gender identity club. I am not submitting an application to be approved and welcomed as if this were the Rainbow Homeowner's Association and Community Watch Board or something. When I say "this is my identity" I mean "this is who I am", and you can accept it or you can reject it; you can care, or you can NOT care, but you don't really get a vote on it.


In second grade I was a person. I was a person who perceived myself to be like the girls. I was a person who was perceived by the other kids as being like the girls. I was a person who was proud to be like the girls despite the expectation of the boys (in particular) and the teachers (sometimes) that I would be embarrassed and ashamed of that. I won't say I didn't need and did not seek anyone's approval -- I wanted the girls to accept me and let me play with them. Some did. I was out to prove I was worthy of their acceptance and approval despite being a boy. I won't claim that, in 2nd grade, I had an understanding of sex and gender as two different things -- I didn't, not like that. But I understood that I was LIKE the girls and I wanted to be PERCEIVED that way; I understood that I was NOT like the (other) boys and I did what I could to distinguish myself from them because I did not like being treated as if I were one of them. Who I was had more to do with being "like the girls" than with the fact that I "was a boy". I was between 6 and 7 years old when I was in second grade, and that was how I understood matters at the time.

What that means -- ONE of the things that that means -- is that in third grade and thereafter I was a person WHO HAD THAT HISTORY, a person who already thought of myself in those terms. Hence it was very much a part of my IDENTITY.

So all of my experiences from then on were the experiences of a person WITH THAT IDENTITY.

I didn't invent it as an adult upon reading about being modern gender identities and LGBTQIA people. Do you get that? I'm not just flinging an angry retort in your direction when I say "you don't get a vote on my identity", although yes, encountering people who attempt to negate my identity does make me angry; I'm not in the process of trying on this identity to see if it fits and to see how other people will or won't accept it.

Instead, this identity is who I have been to myself for over half a century. There's no original or "normal" or prior identity I can revert back to were someone to (hypothetically) convince me that I am not really as I describe. My lifetime experiences have been shaped by my perception of myself, just as yours have shaped your experiences.

My adaptive coping mechanisms are the adaptive coping mechanisms of a girl who behaves as a girl who has been through a bunch of specific experiences that people who aren't male girls seldom go through. Those adaptive coping mechanisms reflect the priorities and sensibilities of a girl whose context of operation include

• being in a male body

• being in a social environment where people expect male-bodied people to be masculine and boyish

• being in a social environment that, to the extent it understands and recognizes the possibility of male people being girlish at all, is hostile and contemptuous towards male girls

Those developed coping mechanisms channeled my subsequent experiences: some possible things that could have happened ended up NOT being among my experiences because of how I handled things, and some possible things ended up happening precisely because of how I handled stuff. And of course I was further shaped by those experiences.


Thank you. I'll climb off this soapbox now. This rant has been simmering in the background for awhile now.


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ahunter3: (Default)
I echo my blog posts on the Straight Dope Message Board, an internet discussion board I've been a part of for two decades. It's a general-topic board where people post thought-provoking posts on a wide range of interesting subjects. For those of you with no familiarity with it, I recommend it: The Straight Dope Message Board

Anyway, there is a current thread titled Not having sex on the first date, which in turn was prompted by author Anna Akana's YouTube video titled Should I stop f*cking on the first date. The ensuing questions concern women and whether or not they refrain from having sex on the first date (or "too soon" by some other definition) specifically in order to fend off being discarded or otherwise perceived in a negative manner by the men that they date.

The Straight Dopers' posted opinions can be conveniently (at least for me and my thought processes) divided into three rough clumps:

• posts that come from a viewpoint that regards the double standard and any relevant beliefs about built-in differences between the sexes as deplorably sexist and either express bewilderment about any modern males who would hold such sentiments or else attribute such attitudes to knuckle-dragging misogyny and express bewilderment about why women would think losing out on the prospect of such guys is any real loss;

• posts that come from a stated belief that there are indeed built-in differences between the sexes, and that the double standard exists as a very predictable outgrowth of those differences;

• posts that do NOT embrace a belief that these differences are inherently built in to male and female nature but which instead emphasize the entirely real existence of the social attitudes and accompanying expectations, and contemplate the behaviors against the backdrop of those social realities and how those behaviors are likely to be interpreted by the other party (who is also embedded in that social environment) in these liaisons.


Within the first clump, one person finds the behavior of misogynists confusing and inconsistent: they want sex, and they'd be unhappy if they were deprived of sex, and yet they're contemptuous of the women who make sex easily attainable. (I made similar points in my blogpost titled What Do Men Want? last March, so I quite understand that bewilderment). Farther down, someone opines that men with this kind of mindset think sex degrades the party who is penetrated, so they have contempt for anyone who would let themselves be so degraded.

Other folks' answers and conjectures come from a more essentialist perspective: that men and women simply want different things (men want sex, women want ongoing relationships) -- sometimes this is stated explicitly, while other people's posts seem to tacitly assume that while surmising that what a person wants on his first date is often different from what he wants over the long haul (without explaining how or why this would differ by gender to create the described situation).

Then, in the third cluster, people ponder the strategic thinking of the participants against the backdrop of these cultural-social expectations: if there are roles and rules and expectations, some people can be viewed as testing their potential partners to see how appropriate and normative their responses are. Another person picks up from there and conjectures about the thoughts in the minds of one person when the other person's behavior does NOT follow those roles and rules, the wonderings and ponderings that person would have about WHY the other person would violate those social norms in such a situation.


Nobody has, as of yet, brought up gender in the sense of being cisgender as opposed to being transgender or genderqueer and how that variable would affect these participants. I, of course, am about to do so.



I am currently combing through Part One of my book, because the publishing editor finds that section (which covers junior high and high school days) to have redundancies and would like me to trim them out. (And I agree with that assessment, by the way). So as I've gone through it paragraph by paragraph, one of the recurrent themes from that part of my life was the powerful aversion I had towards being perceived as "only after one thing".

Insofar as I had always seen myself as akin to the girls and wanted them to see me that way as well, I had also internalized a lot of the same things they did about how we wish to be perceived. And across a very wide spectrum of differences, one of the things I observed about nearly every girl I'd ever known was that NONE OF THEM WANTED TO FEEL AS IF THEY WERE PUSHING SEX ONTO SOMEONE WHO DIDN'T APPRECIATE IT. Some girls wanted to feel as if sex with them were so special and personal that it would only be a possibility under very select circumstances. Other girls were cheerfully enthusiastic about sex with any adequately cute person who was similarly enthusiastic about having sex with them. And many had an attitude all along a continuum in between. But almost no girl had any interest in trying to make sex happen with someone who found the prospect unappealing.

Firstly, because you can't feel very attractive and desirable if you're trying to impose sex on someone and they're acting as if you're insulting them or asking for a huge huge favor. Secondly, because it's humiliating to have to mount a campaign to get someone to do anything with you that should be of mutual benefit, whether it be eating together during lunch or playing jumprope together on the playground or being friends in general or whatever. Thirdly, because it's not nice to make someone do something so personal if they don't want to, and although some girls didn't have any compunction against that sort of thing, many did -- it didn't mesh well with how they like to think of themselves, they weren't mean girls who took delight in making someone creeped out and uncomfortable.


if you think of the behavior from the vantage point of the person doing it, it looks like begging for it, trying to get someone to condescend to do something with you that ought to be a mutually delightful thing if both parties want it. If you think of it from the vantage point of the person you'd be doing it to, on the other hand, it manifests itself as a nasty invasive pushy offensive kind of behavior, and if you aren't comfortable with that notion of yourself (or of being perceived by others in that way), that's not so enticing either.


I have said before that I myself am agnostic about whether or not there are intrinsic built-in differences between the sexes in matters like this. I certainly agree with the people in the third clump, as I described and defined it above, that there is definitely a social reality regardless of whether or not there is a biological reality, and the social reality means that everybody functions not in a vaccuum but against the backdrop of socially shared expectations and roles and rules, and they are definitely gendered and they definitely delegate the horny sex-seeking sexually aggressive behavior of making sex happen to the male people.

The single most recurrent question I get from skeptical and provisionally noninclusive people when I say I am genderqueer and identity as a male girl is "what do you mean when you say you're a girl if you do not wish to have a female body or to be perceived as female?" It's a long complicated convoluted answer, which is why I wrote a book about it, but this issue, the "only after one thing" issue (if we may call it that), that was critical for me. it's the keystone issue. I'm not doing all this in order to win the right to wear skirts when I feel like it. It's this.

So here are some takeaway points:

• If you want to understand why girls in general, and boys in general, behave according to these patterns, it is useful to consider the situation they would find themselves in were they to depart from them.

• If you wish to understand why genderqueer people find it important and necessary to come out and explain their gender identity to the world surrounding them, ask yourself how else would a person proceed if conforming their own sexual (and flirting and dating and related etc) behaviors to those expected patterns is so foreign and feels so wrong to them that they can't go there; and then consider what alternatives may exist and how one would seek out potential partners who do not have those expectations.

• Riffing on the line of thought of one of the Straight Dopers I dumped into the third clump category, YES, consider the thought processes of someone when they do encounter someone who does NOT behave according to the expected conventions. It is reasonable and rational, I think, to assume that the typical person would find it perplexing and worrisome -- not so much that these nonconforming behaviors are WRONG but that they're indicative of someone not caring, in a proper self-preservative manner, for what folks they encounter might think of them. But now let's consider an ATYPICAL person in the same situation and perceiving the same nonconforming behavior. An atypical person whose reaction is an affirmative one. "Aha! I found one!"



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In my talks, such as the talk I gave last week in Manhattan, I mention Jeff. Jeff is a gay entertainer; he does a show at the microphone where he intersperses personal anecdotes with edgy humor. Jeff, like me, is and has always been a feminine person, more like one of the girls than like one of the boys. He talks about this at the microphone, about himself growing up in a small town in the midwest, about watching the ballerinas on TV and wanting to be graceful and elegant like that himself. "See, I knew even then", he says. "I was only about eight. Me and my sisters all wanted leotards and tutus."

It has become a subject on which one's politics may be assessed for correctness, this question of sexual orientation and gender identity, and we should all pause, as if for station identification, and make the ritual disclaimer that gender identity is an entirely different thing from sexual orientation. It is true. They are not two different ways of saying the same thing. They are different. You can vary either one without varying the other and you can have any combination of the two that you can conceivably imagine.

But, for Jeff, being feminine—being like his sisters—is not a different thing from being gay. When he is at the microphone describing his days in high school and his experiences coming out, he makes no distinction between things that happened the way they did because he was a feminine person and things that took place because he was attracted to other males. The people surrounding him, reacting to him, didn't make any such distinction because to them being a gay male and being a girlishly feminine male were not separate things, and nothing in Jeff's own personal experience gave him a lot of reason to need to make such a distinction either.

So discussing gender and sexual orientation as if they had NO EFFECT on each other seems to be an unnecessary and unproductive interpretation of the maxim that they aren't the same thing.

Let's be blunt, shall we? The historically prevailing counterposition has not merely been that they are basically the same thing, it is that they are the same thing and that thing is sexual orientation. The people who deny that gender identity is a separate thing are usually trying to claim that it all boils down to sexual orientation, that being differently gendered is just a batch of fancy-schmantzy word salad and that if you strip the fancy words away you've got straight people and gay folks, nothing else to see here.

And a lot of the politically correct restating-ad-infinitum of the fact that they aren't the same thing is basically a frustrated denial to that counterposition.

In this posting I'm going to upend both assertions. They're both oversimplifications and they're both wrong.

Chloe is another feminine person. She has a lot in common with Jeff and with me. She has a bit more in common with Jeff because she, too, has a same-sex attraction. She's a lesbian.

Not everyone accepts her word for it that she's a lesbian. A fair number of guys find her interesting and cute. She's a feminine female. They keep smiling at her when she thanks them for whatever complimentary things they've said but declines their requests and offers, explaining that she's a lesbian. They keep smiling and they keep making requests and offers.

That would be annoying enough but except when it verges into hostility and violence she doesn't particularly care what a bunch of guys think. If only that were all there were to it! But she also gets flack sometimes from women. She's been accused of playing at being a lesbian because it's edgy and trendy, and told that she's obviously keeping her options open. And once or twice she's been told that because she passes as straight, she's got it easy. And that she's not committed to the lifestyle. Chloe indicates that she is totally committed to living her life as a lesbian, it's who she is, she's known who she was attracted to since before she got her first period.

Chloe and I have some things in common that we don't share with Jeff. People have tended to question my sexual orientation, too. Neither of us fit the stereotypes for folks whose attraction is towards female people. We both have had people indicating that they know better, that they know how we really like it. Or how we'd really like it if the right male-bodied person gave us the right experiences.

Our gender expression affects perceptions of our sexual orientation. Since both gender and sexual orientation are social currency, things that we don't just hold in our heads but communicate to other people, other people's perception of us in these parameters is part of our identity, whether we like it or not. We can get good at filtering things out but it's part of our ongoing experience of who we are. And thus our gender expressions color our sexual orientations and vice versa.

Meanwhile, one of the most centrally social aspects of sexual orientation is the market of potential partners and how you find them, appeal to them, and position yourself to be perceived by them as a person of potential sexual interest. This is a severely underdiscussed aspect of sexual orientation. You know how the moon only presents one side to us in perpetuity? Well, this is the back side of sexual orientation that never seems to be facing us, that so seldom gets discussed: not OUR appetite but the appetites of those we wish to find us appetizing, the attractions of the people to whom we find ourselves attracted. Obviously in a perfect (and ego-gratifying) world there would be complete overlap but in reality we seek not only those to whom we are sexually oriented and specifically attracted but also those who are sexually oriented to our type and specifically attracted to us in return.

As I also tend to mention in my presentation talks, OKCupid now allows a person to identify their own gender not merely as man or woman, but lets us pick from a long long list. But then you get to the screen where you specify which searches your profile will be included in and THOSE are still confined to searches for men, searches for women, or both. And for your own searches you can indicate that you're interested in men, interested in women, or both.

Nowadays, the list of personal gender identities that people may use for themselves is pretty long: man, woman, male, female, agender, demiboy, demigirl, female man, male woman, neutrois, genderfluid between man and woman, genderfluid between agender and demigirl, genderfluid between boy and demiboy, girl, boy, male girl, female boy, bigender, trigender, gender invert, genderfuck, genderfluid between neutrois and female boy, butch, femme, demibutch, demifemme, pangender, nelly, bear, twink...

How do those gender identities come into play when it comes to finding someone who would be attracted to you?

Concepts of sexual orientation lag behind the array of gender identities; it still assumes that people have a sexual orientation that would fall neatly into a very small and finite set of options: heterosexual, gay/lesbian, or bisexual. Heterosexual means that one is attracted to "THE opposite sex". If a person identifies as being a demigirl, what is "the opposite sex"?

Admittedly, that last question elides any distinction between gender and sex; these identities are genders, we said. But that raises the next box of questions: is sexual orientation generally an attraction on the basis of morphological sex, or is attraction more often by gender?

Gender, as we've come to collectively acknowledge, is one's self-assigned / self-verified identity. But attraction is in the eyes of the beholder, so (as if things weren't already sufficiently complicated) we should now perhaps distinguish between self-assigned gender and observer-assigned gender. At least long enough to consider the previous question of whether sexual orientation is actually gender orientation or if it's mostly about morphology and bodily plumbing.

There's more than a faint whiff of evidence that it is the latter, that what we typically conceptualize as sexual orientation is a fascination for a specific set of body parts and shapes. But there's less there than many folks think there is, because when making such considerations most folks (especially the more mainstream, those who would most likely identify as heterosexual) are once again subsuming gender into sex. In other words those who think of themselves as attracted to male-bodied people on the basis of them having male morphology are quite often also projecting onto those male bodies the expectation of a manly gender. Switch in in Jeff, or me, and they may wrinkle their noses in disapproval. Similarly, those who conceptualize themselves as having a thing for the female-bodied might back away if the example offered were a stone butch who was less feminine than they were. Not always, but I'm suggesting it's a counterbalancing trend that offsets the baseline morphological attraction.

So sexual orientation is also not just an attraction to someone with a specific physical morphology. Even though physical morphology would appear to be far from irrelevant.

Back to our hypothetical demigirl. She (or they, if they prefer) would, if being specific in looking for those most likely to find them sexy and desirable, want to find those people who are, a), sexy to them and b) attracted to demigirls. It might be the case that finding people who are attracted to girls in general, or to female people in general, would be sufficient for the latter specification... but it might not be. It depends on whether a generic taste for girls, or female-bodied folk, would have sufficient overlap. If it kind of tends NOT to, positioning herself to be perceived on the market as a girl (and/or female person) would just waste a lot of her time.

I know of whence I speak. I am a gender invert and I am a male-bodied girl. I present as male. (I do make some effort to present as a male-bodied feminine person, but I don't as of yet enjoy a surrounding cultural notion of what a male girl would look like). I have dated, and in fact I will confess that I probably put more time and energy between the ages of 16 and 41 into seeking potential partners than I spent on being a gender activist. I discovered early on that it simply did not work for me to position myself as a male, and there was no non-problematic way to position myself simply as a girl, either, insofar as I was male-bodied. I was still a virgin when I first realized I needed to position myself and advertise myself as a differently gendered individual, in order to meet people who would find that unconventional package intriguing and attractive. And it worked.

So, in short, rather than gender identity being something that collapses down into just sexual orientation if you stare at it hard enough and don't buy into a bunch of doubletalk bullshit, it's the other way around: sexual orientation is a subset of gender identity. In simple cases it may not be necessary to invoke one's gender identity to explain one's sexual orientation, but that's due to the things people can be counted on to take for granted. For the rest of us, to express our sexual orientation we needed to first explain our gender identity.

And to use that explanation as a mating call.

Yes, oh yes indeed. It's not the only area of life in which being perceived as the gender we perceive ourselves to be makes any difference. But sexuality is a central part of life. Of course it is. Of course it is a big part of why.

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Last year around this time I carved a pumpkin and playfully dubbed the result "Jill O Lantern"



One person who saw the photo on Facebook posted the question "Why do you call it a 'Jill o'Lantern'? I don't see anything feminine about it. If you want it to be a Jill O Lantern you should make eyelashes, or do lips in a kiss shape to indicate lipstick, or put some hair with a bow in it, so people will know it's supposed to be a girl lantern".

Umm, well that was sort of the point. There's nothing about the design of a conventional Jack o'Lantern that's intrinsically male. It's an old old observation: generic characters with no distinctive sex markers apparent are altercast by average viewers as male characters.

There are some strong cues that identify a person as a woman or girl, clothing and adornments that aren't typically used by males in our society. If your body is such that people who see you cast you as a woman, you don't need to utilize a double-handful of those strong cues (and indeed the city sidewalks are decently well-populated with female people wearing jeans and sneakers, a t-shirt, sporting short hair and not carrying a purse). But in the absence of something to communicate feminine gender, a fully generic appearance recreates the Jill o'Lantern problem.

Trans women are sometimes criticized for going way over the top with the full-on Barbie paraphernalia, with fingernail polish and make-up and overtly girlish clothes as well as the full repertoire of nuances and gestures and voice tones and so on. But if you happen to be a person who was born male (i.e., assigned male at birth) and have wider shoulders and narrower hips than most people born female (i.e., assigned female at birth), and are tall for a woman, and have big feet for a woman and more of a square jaw and an enlarged larynx, you might find that, in the absence of using as many strong female-indicative cues as you're able to, people won't read the gender signal you intended them to read.

I have my own Jill o'Lantern problem. I don't consider myself female and don't attempt to present in such a way that people will believe me to be female-bodied. Yet I identify as a girl, a gender inverted person, a male who atypically has more of the pattern of behaviors and inclinations of girls than of boys, and who identified with the like-minded and similar-behaving girls rather than identifying with the similar-bodied boys. And in response to that self-description, people often say to me "Oh no, you seem entirely masculine to me, I don't see that at all, you're completely male".

Instead of flouncing around indignantly and whining that my experience is being denied and negated by meanspirited people (something that I admit I do on some such occasions), let's give it some serious consideration, shall we?

First, let's dispense with the obvious oversimplifications and babytalk-level stuff. I don't disavow being male-bodied so anyone who is saying I seem "entirely masculine" or "completely male" who is in any shape way fashion or form deriving that from my physically male body is speaking of irrelevant things. Therefore we shall assume they are referring to my personality and behavior, how I think and feel and behave. I think we can also dispense with overly absolute notions, as if there are behaviors that only boys and men ever display or behaviors that all girls and women display — that eliminates any legitimate use of "I saw you do this once, that means you're a boy" or "I've never seen you do this and girls always do, so you're a boy".

So we're looking at generalizations and trends. Both boys and girls (and men and women) sometimes do boy things and sometimes do girl things, behave in boy ways and behave in girl ways, but in general boys and men tend to do more of the boy things in boy ways more often and do the girl things in girl ways less often when compared to the women and girls. And in that context, saying "you seem entirely masculine / completely male to me" is tantamount to saying "in general, your behavioral pattern would stand out when compared to the behavioral pattern of a bunch of girls, you do significantly more of the boy things in boy ways and less of the girl things in girl ways than the girls in general would do; but when your behavioral pattern is compared to that of a bunch of boys, your pattern would not stand out, you'd seem entirely typical".

If that is true to some observers, it is in contrast to the expressed observations of other people who have said the opposite. It is also in contrast to my own observations, but my own observations introduce an entirely separate level of information, the internal world of thoughts and feelings. External observers see and interpret my behaviors; they don't directly perceive my feelings, know my thoughts, have access to my world-view and my priorities and all that stuff.

(That, therefore, causes me to toss in this side-question: is the inner world irrelevant, relevant but less so than externally observable behaviors, more relevant, or definitive all by itself in such matters? To me it seems pretentious to ask of other people that they understand me in a different way than they already do based entirely on how I perceive myself internally. Doing so would not cause me to make more sense to them than I do now, however much it might make me feel better. I don't see how it would be different than demanding that people treat me like I'm the emperor of Japan or the sexiest rock star in the western hemisphere — why should they? But I'm inclined to accord it *some* relevance, this inner world that others don't get to directly see. I suppose if pressed about it I end up saying there are a whole froth of tiny micro-behaviors that people do see even if they don't identify them, and they are subject to unconscious interpretation, and that if interpreted through the lens of one set of assumptions they have a clearer and more consistent meaning than if interpreted through another; and that these micro-behaviors are the iceberg-tips of a person's internal world)

Returning to the matter of observable behaviors, though, I think it is important to realize that a different internal world comes into play during such observations: the internal world *of the observer*. As with the reading of a novel, the meaning that the reader/observer arrives at is not due entirely to the content that is read. Instead, the author encapsulates some intended meaning in words and the reader, upon reading those words, has some meaning evoked, meaning that is dependent on commonality, shared references and experiences-in-common. And because the reader's prior experiences will only overlap to a matter of degree, the meaning thus evoked will differ from one reader to another. And that brings me back to my Jill o'Lantern.

I think people who experience me as "entirely masculine / completely male" often experience my behaviors as entirely masculine because I am completely male. That is, prior to the time that they observe a behavior, they have already altercast me as a man or boy based on me being male, and through the lens of that identity-assumption there are more behaviors than not that make sense interpreted as feminine behaviors *or* as masculine behaviors, with somewhat different intentionalities and moods and priorities being imagined of me and bestowed upon the behavior to explicate the behavior's meaning to the observer.

Which, naturally, kicks me back to square one. The square from which I ask the observer to suspend that identity and try the different alternative one I've suggested and, with that one as the new lens, see if my behaviors make sense as the behaviors of a girl or woman, and if so whether they fit better to an observer than they did when viewed through the prior lens of assumptions.

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