Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
ahunter3: (Default)
Unlike my parents, I wasn't a morning person. My Dad was making puns and trying to engage me at breakfast, and I just wished he'd shut up and leave me to my dull early-morning haze. My little sister Jan's morning mood trended more towards cranky. "Tell Derek* to quit slurping his cereal, it's gross!" I scowled at her and considered doing it more to annoy her further but I was too groggy to put any energy into it.

We walked down the road to the curve to wait for the school bus. Theresa Jones and the Jackson boys, from across the street, boarded at the same bus stop. "Hey Derek, what do you like better, football or motocross?" Jerry was putting dead pecans from the nearby pecan tree into a slingshot and shooting them at the stop sign where they ricocheted with a ping. "What, you don't watch either one? Why not? Hey, what's that you got there?" I showed them the old blue Nancy Drew book I was reading. The younger boy, Jerry, shook his head, "Why you want to read a girl's book?" The brothers looked at each other and smirked.

Jerry threatened to fire a pecan at Doug, dancing back out of reach and drawing back the slingshot. "Why you holding it that way, you nigger? Who taught you how to shoot?" Indignantly, Jerry huffed, "Who you calling nigger? You're a retard! You got a rubber butt and you fart!"

The school bus pulled up and we climbed on. I sat by myself next to a window and opened my book and went back to my reading.

Pine Grove Elementary was only about 10 miles away by car, but the bus meandered up and down little side roads, first suburban and then rural. It would take awhile before it finally discharged us in the school's parking lot. I always read on the bus. There was nothing wrong with reading Nancy Drew books. I liked Hardy Boys too, but my mom and my aunts had a whole bunch of old Nancy Drew books they gave me when they found out I liked to read, and they were good.

We had a spelling bee after Mrs. Sarwinsky took roll and saying the pledge. I always did good and today I was one of the last four kids but I didn't do "Mediterranean" right and had to sit down. Jill got it right and ended up being the winner. I'd probably beat her tomorrow. I was as good as she was.

"I have to step out for a little while", Mrs. Sarwinsky told us. "I want you to keep working on your geography lessons, and stay in your seats and keep quiet until I get back. Suzy, take down names of anyone who acts up while I'm gone, OK?" Suzy nodded. She got asked last time, it should be someone else's turn to take names. It should be me more often. It was hardly ever a boy, and it's not fair.

My friend Mike McDowell sat behind me and one row over. We traded books sometimes. He liked science fiction and he had gotten me interested. I liked stuff about the stars and flying to other planets and that kind of thing. Sometimes I played with Mike at recess but more often I would go to where Jill and Karen and the twins Rhonda and Wanda liked to play. Today I saw Jill playing jacks with the twins, so I went over to join them. "Hi, Derek!" Jill indicated for me to sit. Behind us, other girls jumped rope, chanting about how many times someone came a-knocking at the door. "Let's say you have to pick two from here and one from the little pile before you can catch the ball" "No, put them closer, I can't do it that fast". The boys usually played marbles instead, or would climb on the monkey bars; the playground wasn't officially divided, it just ended up split up that way. Sometimes I'd play with boys, sometimes here with the girls.

I fell asleep on the bus on the way home and when I woke up it was stopping on an unpaved road in front of a sad run-down house with a sagging wooden front porch. There were broken toys in the yard and the curtain in the window was ripped and hanging. Two kids in the front yard were saying something to the one who got off the bus and I could see this one kids' mouth, and his teeth and gums looked weird like something was wrong. Their clothes were all worn-out looking and maybe it was because I was still half-asleep or something but I got scared like this could happen to me, to get put out in a place like this where everything was worn out and broken and sick and sad.

Karen and I got off at the same stop every day. We went to her house to play for awhile. "Is it OK if we play with paper dolls?", she asked. I nodded. We traced some of the clothes and cut out new ones and drew on them with colored pencils to make patterns and then bent the tabs down to attach them to the dolls. "OK, you be the grocery store man and I'll be the mom shopping..."

Later, at home after supper, Jan and I sat on the floor watching TV. During the commercial we started playing that game where you alternate patting your partner's hands then your own then your knees then alternate across while singing. "My mama told me, when I was young, she's buy me a rubber dolly..." we kept speeding up until one of us would miss, then we'd giggle and start again. "Hey, you two, stop being so silly and loud! C'mon, the program's starting again", my mom interrupted, exasperated. She'd asked me earlier how my day was, how things were at school. "Fine", I said. She asked me about it pretty often. I was good in school, I liked it.

After recess, we would always line up in long lines to be let back into the building. You were not supposed to cut the line, that was the rule. One day a girl I didn't know and I got into an argument, with her claiming I had cut in front of her and me claiming she was trying to cut in front of me, which I believed to be the case. The assistant principal said "I don't think this little girl would lie about such a thing" and he made me wait until everyone else had filed in to the building, which totally enraged me, that he would automatically take her word over mine just because she was a girl.

Mrs. Sarwinsky was sometimes late getting into our room after lunch and kids would be in the classroom already before she came in. "C'mon, Derek, don't be such a pansy", Thereas's's brother Corey demanded. "Write some stuff on the board. Sarwinsky won't be back for ten minutes, she won't know who did it". He took up a piece of chalk and wrote 'Fart on science' next to the science assignment. Doug Jackson laughed, then asked us all, "Hey, want to hear a dirty joke?" I shook my head. Disregarding me, he went into a long unfunny story about somebody going to the bathroom in the dark and getting piss and shit all over themselves.

Corey was OK, actually, when the Jacksons weren't around. We went bike riding together. He had a short bike with those fashionable deep U-shaped handlebars and the banana seat, and his bike would start off real fast. Mine was an older bike, a used bike, taller and with bigger tires, and it took a lot longer to get it moving fast but I could outrace him if the race was long enough.

"Now... you fold it like this...", I intoned, turning the paper over and folding all the corners in once more. I opened it up and got my fingers into the little pockets. "OK, now pick a color". Karen studied the outside of the little paper contraption and pointed, "Blue". I manipulated the device, alternatively showing one set then the other set of numbers while counting off "b, l, u, e... OK now pick a number..." I had learned the game from Jan's friend Tracy, who had come to our house to play last week. Jan and I mostly liked each other's friends and we all played together a lot because she was only two years younger.

"I like you", I told Karen. "I think you're my best friend". Karen said she liked me too. I put my arm around her shoulder; she slid up closer to me. We stayed that way for awhile. "You want to get some Kool-Aid? My mom doesn't let me have sodas", Karen explained apologetically. I nodded; we went into the kitchen. Her dad was in his chair in the living room. "Hey, Derek. Karen, honey, maybe Derek needs to get on home to his own family". Karen told me once that her parents wanted her to play with girls more, and thought it was odd for me to be coming over so often.

Kids at school made fun of us sometimes, singing "Derek has a girl friend" or "Karen and Derek sitting in a tree" and stuff like that. And there was a teacher at school who acted like I was doing something wrong if I was playing with the girls on the playground: "You ought to be ashamed. Do you think this is right? What would your father say? You know better! Don't let me catch you here again! Now go play with the boys!"

"I like you and you like me", Karen said. "I don't care what anyone says". I agreed. We weren't going to let anyone split us up.


* Portions of the above were a part of early beta versions of THE STORY OF Q, but dropped when I needed to make the book more concise. I have left in the aliased names for the sake of consistency.


I am now echoed on DreamWidth, like many other LJ folks. My DW acct is here. Please friend/link me on DW if you are a DreamWidth user.


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
Last week I was visiting my parents and my sister and brother-in-law and viewing the solar eclipse with them (they are conveniently living within waking distance of the Georgia/South Carolina border and were in the path of totality), and while I was down there I went rummaging through some old storage boxes in search of some of my oldest "coming out" writings. One of the items I found was a short piece titled "Anonymous Conversation III".

Back in 1980, my first attempt to put my thoughts about gender and society down onto paper ended up getting me into trouble. The 4-page paper didn't make much sense to most of the people I showed it to; the ideas weren't coherently expressed. One person even felt threatened (not, I think, by the content, just by the fact that an unknown male undergraduate had left this incomprehensible document in her campus faculty mailbox) and that, in turn, triggered an overreaction by the university health center whose triage psychiatrist decided I needed psychiatric incarceration and observation.

That didn't shut me up, but I was a bit more cautious in my next attempts.

By 1982, I was starting to work on a book that I titled The Amazon's Brother, in which I would introduce my gender stuff by explaining it in terms of feminism. "Anonymous Conversation III" was intended to be an introduction chapter to kick off the main body of the book, which was going to be (and eventually was) a combination of my own story followed by some chapters of feminist analysis and theory derived from those experiences. I initially thought about setting up the premise of the book as a sort of trial to take place before a feminist court, and "Anonymous Conversation III" was an unfinished draft chapter with that in mind. I never ended up using it (by the time I gave up on getting The Amazon's Brother published, it had a different Intro) and, in fact, it was never even typed out -- what I found in the box was a sheaf of handwritten pages. But it's an interesting bridge piece, still using some of the terminology (e.g., "spectrum theory", still saying "sexism" where I would later have written "patriarchy") from the problematic 4-pager, but doing a significantly better job (I daresay) of explaining things in an accessible manner.


Xy: I want to stand trial on behalf of my entire gender. The charge is that we are responsible for sexism.

Xx: No way. The charge is that, as a general rule, people of your gender have fought against the people of mine who have tried to eliminate sexism, and that people of my gender have done almost all of the work and supplied nearly all of the energy for eliminating sexism. Still want to stand trial? Court is in session.

Xy: Eek! Okay. I'll try. May we dispense with the opening statement for the prosecution? Everyone's heard it a thousand times.

Xx: It has not been heard enough times by enough people. Request denied.

Xy: Very well. It is the contention of the prosecution that, as a result of sexism, people of your gender are deemed inferior to those of mine; that stereotypes of personality have been attributed to each gender; that standards of socially acceptable behavior for each gender have been derived from those stereotypes of personality; that the standards and stereotypes of personality and behavior, hereafter referred to as sex roles... uh, where was I... oh, yes, that the sex role for your gender is deemed inferior to the sex role of mine; that the behavior portion of your sex role reduces your gender to the status of domestic and personal servants, with no autonomy; that the portion of your sex role that deals with sexuality itself reduces your gender to the status of passive objects existing for the sexual pleasure of my gender; that the stereotype of personality for your gender includes qualities of nurturance, kindness, sweetness, compassion, tolerance, and a host of others which are of direct benefit to my gender, which shares the companionship of yours; that the stereotype of personality for my gender includes emotional insensitivity, callousness, and similar characteristics which excuse my gender from any empathic or supportive feelings for yours; that, furthermore, the stereotype of personality for your gender includes docility, acquiescence, politeness, calmness, and so forth, which discourages your gender from confronting mine; that sex role nonconformists are deemed inferior to others of their gender, or psychotic, or both. It is also the contention of the prosecution that the vast majority of people who have taken a stand against sexism have been of your gender; that this unequal participation has been even more disproportionate among those who have dedicated their lives to the active opposition to sexism; that the most vehement SUPPORT of sexism has always come from my gender; that the assault on sexism does not constitute a threat to my gender unless people of my gender find sexual equality threatening; that sexism has negative, dehumanizing effects on my gender as well; that this last observation has been pointed out to my gender by yours more often than the other way around... how am I doing?

Xx: I'm impressed. You've been listening. Continue.

Xy: The prosecution contends that sexism and its manifestations constitute a severe restriction of freedom; that the elimination of sexism would result in an awesome increase in the amount of freedom available to human beings; that sexism serves as a barrier to harmonious relations between the genders, both within and outside of marriage and other heterosexual relationships; that sexism cripples the emotional and psychological development of children of both genders; that my gender does not take seriously that portion of your gender that actively opposes sexism. The prosecution points out that courage and valor are listed among the attributes assigned to my gender; that taking opposition to sexism requires courage and valor; that, outside of an egocentric need for my gender to feel superior to yours, sexism is entirely detrimental to my gender as well as your own. The prosecution concludes that my gender has displayed abject cowardice, egocentrism, or both. How's that?

Xx: Oh, if I thought for a while, I could probably add to the list, but since I am a fictional character in your book, I will accept it. How do you plead?

Xy: On behalf of my gender -- which has not authorized me to stand here in its defense --

Xx: Don't make excuses. This is an unofficial trial. Continue.

Xy: On behalf of my gender I plead nolo contendere

Xx: Nolo contendere... you do not wish to contend?

Xy: I feel that, although the evidence is valid, the conclusion does not represent a completely accurate assessment of the situation. There are, and have been, extenuating circumstances.

Xx: Very well. You may proceed.

Xy: To begin with, I would like to introduce the concept I call Spectrum Theory. As other opponents of sexism have often pointed out, sexism assumes that all women are alike and that all men are alike. Yet we know this not to be the case. Will the court accept this point?

Xx: Definitely.

Xy: Now I would like the court to visualize a spectrum of all people of one gender and a parallel spectrum of all people of the other. At one extreme, think of all the people who come closest to being described by the generalizations that sexism makes about women when those people are being their natural selves.

Xx: That is rather difficult to assess, since we don't know how people would behave if sexism were eliminated.

Xy: Very well. Make it abstract. Regardless of the quantity of people, or even the presence or absence of them standing at that extreme pole of the spectrum, that is what that end of the spectrum represents: those qualities of personality and behavior traditionally regarded as feminine.

Xx: Male and female?

Xy: Correct. That end of both spectrums represents feminine qualities.

Xx: You are aware of the sexism in using the label "feminine", I trust?

Xy: I am. Let's call that direction north, or blue. Whatever. Moving to the opposite extreme, we find the people, or at least the abstract qualities, traditionally called "masculine". Personality and behavior. Both genders. South. Red. Between the two extremes is a blur, a smooth blend. Theoretically, everyone is somewhere on that spectrum. Right in the middle is abstract androgyny. A person with a mixture of traits that are traditionally thought of as masculine and feminine, but with a greater preponderance towards the so-called feminine end would be green. Between the middle and one extreme. And so forth.

Xx: How about the person who behaves and feels differently at different times?

Xy: If you took a spectroscope and pointed it at the sun, you would find that it produces blue light, yellow light, red light, and so on. But it looks yellow because the yellow part of the spectrum is where the sun's intensity is at. If you go out at night, you will see red, orange, yellow, and blue stars. They each put out many different wavelengths too, but what you see is the brightest color, the place where their intensity is concentrated. And it's not the same for every star.

Xx: Or every person. That makes sense. Go on.

Xy: Now I'm sure you would object if I were to say that all women should be this way or all women should be that way, but I would expect you to object more strenuously if I said all women should be like Susie Q the girl next door than you would if I said all women should be like you.

Xx: I'm not sure I agree with you. Are you saying that... well, I guess I see what you're saying. I might be opposed to inflicting a new standard for women to have to conform to, and I would be, but it wouldn't affect me directly and personally if I myself were the prototype. I would automatically be normal.

Xy: Exactly. And you have experienced the frustration of not being the prototype or resembling the prototype close enough to be seen as normal without pretending to be someone you are not. If you had been born with a personality that just happened to coincide with sexist expectations you wouldn't know what it would be like to be at odds with them.

Xx: I will accept that. I'm curious to see where you're leading. You may continue.

Xy: Going back to our spectrum, or our parallel spectrums, let's take a look at what sexism does. On the male spectrum, sexism says to the red, or south-polar people of my gender, "You are normal. All males should be like you." Meanwhile, on the female spectrum, the people of the very same red south-polar personality and so forth are hearing, "You are weird. You are abnormal. You aren't doing it right. Something is wrong with you". Same personality. There are only two differences: gender, and the message they are getting from sexism. I ask the court which difference is most likely to make a difference in the attitudes of these people? Gender, or exactly opposite messages?

Xx: I would assume that any rational person would say the messages they are receiving.

Xy: And on the other end of the spectrum the situation would be reversed. Blue, north-polar women get the message that they are normal. All women should be like them. Blue, north-polar men are told they are weird. Something is wrong with them. The people in the middle get messages sort of like "You're okay, but you ought to be more this way, or that way". Sexism irritates them but it doesn't assault them with a full-fledged negation of their identities. Which people are most likely to be fully opposed to sexism?

Xx: Red... let me see if I have your terminology straight... yes, "red" women and "blue" men. We are tallking about men and women who would be described in sexist terms as unmasculine men and unfeminine women. Go ahead, I'm listening.

That's as far as I got with "Anonymous Conversation III". I can tell you where I was going with it, though:

Conjure up a conventional stereotype of a feminist woman. You did? Well, is she assertive? Verbally aggressive? Belligerent? Does she have fewer feminine mannerisms and behavioral characteristics including body language and how she participates in discussions? And/or more masculine characteristics, for that matter? OK, there's a scintilla of truth within many stereotypes. Feminism specifically says that holding different expectations and using a different evaluation ruler for women than the one used to evaluate men is sexist, and while feminism doesn't lack appeal to women whose personal characteristics pretty closely map to what you'd call "feminine", it constitutes a particular validation for women whose characteristics do not. So you end up with a situation involving tough confrontational women reacting to the definitional expectation that they be dainty and delicate. The very act of engaging in this type of confrontation is an act that comes more easily to a person whose characteristics tend more towards being dominant and aggressive, and furthermore the act of doing so is, itself, a reiteration of the statement that women are claiming for themselves the right to be powerful.

Yeah, now consider the mirror-image situation for males. Those for whom eliminating sexist expectations and behavioral standards would appeal most directly would be those who least exemplify the set of characteristics we call "masculine", in other words feminine males like me. If, as I just said, engaging in social confrontation comes most easily to dominant aggressive people, and the act of doing such confrontation is, itself, a message about that person's tendency to be adversarial and socially combative and so on, we've got a mismatch on this side instead of a convenient confluence. The double-handful of atypical women drawn to feminism in part because it embraces their atypical "unfeminine" personality characteristics are warriors, and when they join their voices with those of other feminists in conflict with sexist society their activity echoes their message; but the atypical male people who resent sexism for similarly personal reasons are (pretty much by definition) NOT very warrior-like and are NOT particularly likely to be well-suited for confrontational endeavors; and when they engage in it to the best of their ability ANYWAY, their activity is difficult to reconcile with their intended message.

We are sometimes told that we're acting entirely like men tend to act —- self-immersed and selfishly concerned and confrontationally combative about other people's attitudes and behavior. More often, we are dismissed as whiny and pathetic. Because yelling about things and being provocatively belligerent is so superior to whining, I guess. At any rate, it's more complicated. The things we are deprived of aren't about power and you can't really attain them by seizing them. So we tend to seek solutions in less socially visible ways in the smaller arenas of our personal lives.


I am now echoed on DreamWidth, like many other LJ folks. My DW acct is here. Please friend/link me on DW if you are a DreamWidth user.


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
In 1980 in my first attempts to come out, I tried "straightbackwards person" and placed an ad seeking other people who matched expectations for the opposite sex and/or for gay people of their sex a lot more than they lived up to expectations for heterosexual people of their own sex, but whose attraction was nevertheless towards the opposite sex. It wasn't the clearest description or the best label to use for it, I suppose, but I was new at this.

Decades later, one of my detractors dismissed my description of myself as genderqueer: "He just wants to get on the bandwagon", he said, describing me. "He's just a straight male with some non-stereotypical characteristics -- like nearly every other straight male out there -- but he really wants to be a sexual minority so he can be edgy and trendy".

It's a pattern: gay people can be genderqueer as well as gay, bisexual and pansexual people are welcome to identify as genderqueer as well as bi or pan, and transgender people may identify as genderqueer if they don't feel that a binary identity as male or female properly describes them; but if there isnt some other meaningful and recognizable sense in which you're queer, being genderqueer by itself apparently isn't enough to count.

If you can't be genderqueer without being gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or transgender, no wonder some people don't include it in the alphabet-soup acronym!

Well, I wasn't at all sure that gay and lesbian activists would think I belonged among them, wasn't at all sure that I'd be welcome there. If you think transgender and intersex people are marginalized within LGBTQIA now, you should consider how it was back in the 80s. Trans people were hypothetical people -- the movement, as manifested in the form of people who come to meetings at Identity House and other "out" organizations, was made up of gay and lesbian folks. I nosed around and tried to get into conversations but it wasn't obvious to me or them that we had enough in common for me to belong there.

I continued to use "straight" or "heterosexual" to describe myself while trying on other terms for the gender difference -- for instance, the self-chosen label "heterosexual sissy" -- and that didn't exactly emphasize an identity-in-common with the gay rights folks. I was trying to do my own identity politics and the main bandwagon that seemed to be headed where I wanted to go was feminism, not the politics of sexual orientation.

I joined the Straight Dope Message Board, my primary online social home, in the late 1990s. In 2001, someone started a thread titled "Opposite of Tomboy?" asking what you call a male person with feminine characteristics, and I answered,

I use "sissy". Yeah, it's pejorative, but that's because folks tend to think the concept itself is pejorative. The word itself means "sister-like", so it doesn't really have negative denotation unless you hold a low opinion of females.

I needed a term to refer to myself in this regard, so I figured I'd follow the lead of gay folks who proudly refer to themselves as "queer" or "faggot", so I call myself "sissy".

Roughly around the same time, a gay male (I'll call him "Matt") posted that he was sick and tired of butch macho gay guys saying derogatory things about nelly femme guys like him. "I did not decide to be femme to obey a stereotype, OK?", he wrote. "If there is such a stereotype, it is conforming to me".

Three years later, Matt started a thread decrying the lack of a term that would be the male equivalent of "tomboy". (As you can see, this is clearly a recurrent theme). This time I replied,

I used "sissy" for a long time, it was a good word, even despite the negative-connotation baggage.

I don't use it much any more because it is increasingly used in a specific narrow sense to mean males who get a sexual thrill out of being "feminized", i.e., forced (or at least "forced" within the context of having a safe word and within the constraints of a defined "scene") to dress in frilly underpants and dresses and skirts and high heels and stuff. It's a humiliation-based kink. See in particular "sissy maid".

(not my kink)

With the greater social awareness of transgender people these days, I just say I'm a "male girl".
It's actually closer to how I perceived myself when I first came out.

It was Matt who first stumbled across the term "genderqueer" and recognized it as a good one, and he suggested it to me in 2004. I had started a thread of my own, titled "In which AHunter3 pits/debates/seeks opinion on his maleness", in which I thrashed around in one of my dysphorically frustrated moods. Matt, in his reply, suggested "genderqueer" might be a concept of interest to me. A trans board member, Kelly, agreed: "Welcome to the poorly-defined land of the genderqueer".

By 2006, I was starting to utilize the term myself. In my first use of the term on the Straight Dope, I wrote

3) Are you gay or straight? I'm tempted to answer "no". Straight I guess, but different. I'm not into masculinity (as conventionally defined at any rate) and don't play heterosexuality along sex-polarized lines if I can avoid it, for gut-deep personal reasons not as politicized protest etc , and so I think I'm as genderqueer as anyone.

... and shortly after that, in a thread asking about gender identity disorder,

Well, I wouldn't embrace a label that says I have a disorder, but I'll go with genderqueer, which is sort of the same thing minus the intrinsic medicalization and value judgment.

And in my case, I have no problem with the body I was born in. My problems with "being a man" don't seem to center on the architecture of the male body per se.

Finally, in January of 2011, I was invited to speak to a book club at Boston College about my 1991 paper "Same Door Different Closet: A Heterosexual Sissy's Coming-Out Story". As I roamed around the room setting up audio equipment and trying to calm the tummy-butterflies, I spotted a bookmark. LGBTQ, it said. That's the moment in which it clicked into place for me. That Q, that means people like me. They're including me. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and people who are queer in other ways too, like genderqueer.

So at that point I ended up on the rainbow bandwagon. It kind of stopped by and picked me up. It was going my way after all.

I reject the thesis that I'm doing something cynically opportunistic. I was doing what I do before gender politics erupted onto the national landscape in a big way, and before being genderqueer became a trendy edgy thing. I do acknowledge that I engage in positioning, of figuring out how to present and explain a concept, what words to use and how to juxtapose what I'm saying against the backdrop of stuff that people are already somewhat familiar with.


I am now echoed on DreamWidth, like many other LJ folks. My DW acct is here. Please friend/link me on DW if you are a DreamWidth user.


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
The second and third major chunks of my book are set partially in Los Alamos and partially in Albuquerque. I wrote about Los Alamos in my July 2 blogentry, so I figured I'd describe Albuquerque a bit in this one.

Physically, Albuquerque is a mostly-flat city but surrounded by mountains to the east and the Rio Grande to the west. The land on the other side of the Rio rises up to a mesa so that from certain angles Albuquerque looks like a city in a bowl with the mountains making the rim. Satellite view The really impressive mountains to the east is the Sandia ridge and the smaller echoing ridge on the other side of the river is West Mesa.

In a pattern that people familiar with Manhattan would recognize, the majority of the city is laid out in a grid of streets making rectangular blocks. Three hundred some-odd thousand people were living in Albuquerque in 1978-1980 when the action in my story takes place. The population is up over five hundred thousand now. It's the big city in New Mexico.

It's at a lower elevation than Los Alamos, although still considered a high-elevation city, and the lower elevation means it is hotter and dryer. The surrounding countryside is a barren landscape of scrub and rock. Once shortly after I moved there, I went out for a long walk after getting stoned courtesy of my neighbor's bong pipe, and got it into my head to walk out beyond the bounds of civilization to be in "nature". The suburban streets featured trees, locusts and cottonwoods and oaks and whatnot, and I think I unconsciously visualized myself coming out into some kind of primitive forest. Instead, I found myself leaving a green oasis of lawns and trees and ending up in the desert.

In the book, I end up living in Albuquerque twice, both times for the purpose of attending a school: First, I was a student at Albuquerque Vo-Tech, a trade school that seems to have disappeared into obscurity (it wasn't the institution called TVI, but rather a different one); I think it was somewhere around Eubank, north of Central. I lived on Grove Street SE in a rented house with another Vo-Tech student in 1978 and 1979. I was 18 and I had bailed out on the college trajectory my folks expected for me because I wanted financial independence early and thought that I'd enjoy being an auto mechanic.

I was regarded by some who knew me at the time as having insufficient aspirations for myself, but my attitude towards money wasn't all that peculiar for the region. In much of the west, in fact, there's sort of an attitude that self-sufficiency is very important, but once you get beyond that you're supposed to be low-key about wealth. It's OK to have it, to be well-off or downright rich, but it's in poor taste to be ostentatious about it. In Albuquerque the millionaires are likely to be wearing denim and to spend very little effort trying to impress other folks or being snobby about how rich they are. And I had met my share of people who simply wanted to earn enough to be adequately comfortable and to put a higher priority on independence and respect, to do something well enough that you could get paid for your skills and call your own shots, move on if you don't like your job because your abilities are in demand everywhere, be your own person who didn't have to take shit from anyone else. Yeah, that looked good to me.

Albuquerque is roughly half Hispanic (or Chicano, as folks say in New Mexico) and half non-hispanic white, with a sprinkling of other races and ethnicities. This is a part of the country where folks of Spanish ancestry were here first, with the oldest families being in the region before Mexico had separated from Spain and other families having come north to settle here between Mexico's independence and Mexico's loss of this land in the war with the US in the middle 1800's. There is some ethnic friction, some of which is apparent as a social backdrop in the Albuquerque sections of my book, but it's not a high tension adversarial hostility so much as an occasional clash of cultures and different ways of looking at things.

I had a bigger problem with being in a virtually all-male environment. There were very few women at the Vo-Tech school, and my experiences during that year brought an increased awareness that I still didn't integrate particularly well with male company. It wasn't so much that I was the target of violence and hostility (although yes, there was some of that) as I was left lonely without people to be friends with and talk to. These were also my first years out of the parental home, getting used to living my own life and learning about myself and becoming an adult.

A contributing factor to my loneliness was the format of partying and socializing in Albuquerque. I had come from Los Alamos where the teenagers and young adults would congregate in a single specific parking lot and obtain beer and learn where the outdoor bonfire party was at this evening; and then the party was public and no invitation was required. The equivalent social action in Albuquerque took place either in people's private homes or in bars or, especially for younger people who couldn't legally drink in bars yet (like me at the time), driving around, cruising certain blocks and showing off your car and chatting with people through the car windows and so on. The indoor scene required social connections and invitations and doing the car cruising thing successfully required having enough money to spiff up your car and keep the gas tank filled. As a student on a tight budget with no income of my own, I could afford some weed and some beer but not much else.

I did, however, scheme and plan about pimping out my ride. I was training as an auto mechanic, after all. Someday, when I could afford it, it was going to have this additional equipment and that color paint job all deep lustrous laquer, and more chromium and seats like so... oh yes, despite whatever difficulties I was having mixing with the guys, I still conceptualized myself as a guy and I embraced some images and notions about how to be a guy, notions I expected to work for me. Countercultural cool, longhaired intellectual blue-collar neo-hippie, you know?

The attempt to kick off a career as an auto mechanic did not pan out for me for a variety of reasons. I passed the course but came out the other side without the years of experience that some guys had. I returned to Los Alamos but ultimately I was unable to land and hold on to a job that would give me the self-sufficiency I'd sought. A year later my folks succeeded in talking me into trying college after all, and I came back to Albuquerque to attend UNM in 1979.

The University of New Mexico is a commuter campus for the large number of students already living in Albuquerque, but this time around I lived in the dorms. I was in Coronado Hall. The campus is mostly compact instead of being sprinkled in pieces all over the city as some urban college campuses do; most of UNM's campus sits between Central and Lomas Boulevard with a somewhat looser sprawl of buildings north of Lomas. There are a lot of business catering to the student experience and campus life in the blocks south of Central Ave, trendy shops and eateries. Back in 1979 there was a head shop selling marijuana paraphernalia and Freak Brothers comic books and across from it a vegetarian restaurant called The Purple Cow, a used record store, and so on. Some scenes in the book take place in the Frontier Restaurant, home of the best huevos rancheros you'll ever eat, and in the Siren Coffeehouse, a feminist hangout that used to host poetry readings and women's music.

The front lawns of the campus were a congregating spot for people to sit and party and socialize. In addition to students, there were travelers hitching or driving through and local people who didn't attend the university but liked the scene. Here at last I found the informal socializing environment that most closely resembled the party scene I missed from Los Alamos. (It was also where one went to purchase weed and other psychoactive substances).

The music department buildings were nearby. I was majoring in music with the intention of becoming an orchestral composer and a performing / composing pianist, and I would get high and chat with folks on the lawn and then dive into the practice room, notebook and portable cassette player in hand, to practice and write my music.

It was during my time as a university student that I came out. It was an environment that theoretically should have made that easier--instead of the all-male and macho-inflected world of VoTech or the small-town cautions of Los Alamos, I was now for the first time in a place where other students were sending me signals left and right that they thought they knew my secret and that it was OK, that I should accept myself and that when I did I would find that others accepted me too. But I didn't know who--or what or how, if you will--I was yet. It wasn't what they thought I was, the identity that they were so ready and kindly willing to accept. They were onto something though. It was that kind of difference. The winks and gentle hints were as discomfiting to me as the violent hostility had been, a never-ending poking and nudging at me to deal with these questions for which I had no answer.

And that's the setting for the book's climax and reconciliation.

My book, The Story of Q: A GenderQueer Tale, is scheduled to be published by NineStar Press on November 27 of this year.


I am now echoed on DreamWidth, like many other LJ folks. My DW acct is here. Please friend/link me on DW if you are a DreamWidth user.


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
My book, The Story of Q: A GenderQueer Tale, is scheduled to be published by NineStar Press on November 27 of this year. This year is, coincidentally, also 40 years since I graduated from high school, and therefore the 40th reunion is imminent, scheduled for September 23. I haven't been to a reunion since the 10th in 1987 but it's too irresistibly tempting to attend this one under the circumstances. With any luck, between me and my publicist John Sherman, we'll manage to get me booked into a space where I can speak to an audience and read some from the book and combine that into the same trip.

The first major chunk of my memoir is set in Los Alamos. (The second and third sections are divided between Los Alamos and Albuquerque NM. I may describe Albuquerque as the second story setting in a later post).

A handful of the specific events described in my book as well as the general social environment portrayed there may be recognizable to other people in my Los Alamos graduating class from their own recollections.

Los Alamos was neither an especially safe venue nor a nightmarishly horrible hellhole in which to grow up as a sissified feminine male person. It is most famously known for being the community where nuclear physicists developed the atomic bomb during World War II, and it is still very much an intellectual science-centric community with the scientific laboratory dominating much of the culture. The population is less than 15,000 people and, as is typical of towns of that size, folks tend to know each other or to know of each other, and that is especially true of students in school. Physically, it's at high elevation (over 7000 feet) and is spread out along the top of several mesas interspersed with deep canyons, and there is a lot of undeveloped land immediately near the schools and houses.

It was (and is) a somewhat old-fashioned town in many ways. The highly educated scientists were disproportionately recruited from small colleges in small communities, so there's an interesting tension between the tendency towards sophistication that comes with being an intellectual with an advanced degree and the conservative outlook that reflects those small-town origins.

It wasn't the conventional central-casting junior high and high school environment reflected in so many books and movies. First of all, it wasn't anywhere near as athlete-centric, although yes we had athletic students and, true to stereotype, I did have a lot of conflict with the male sports-centric boys. But whereas in some towns (at least as described by other authors in their own books) the entire school's social life seems to revolve around male athletic boys and their cheerleader girlfriends, in Los Alamos they were just one clique and not an overwhelmingly dominant one, and there was a lot of overlap with other social clusters that mainstream America doesn't tend to associate with athletes, such as Yearbook Committee or the drama club and so forth.

The most popular kids often belonged to several factions, such as student government and school sports and Olions (the theatrical drama and performing-arts kids) and choir and band and orchestra, and to know and interact with people from more than one social cluster.

I started off as a new kid in town in 8th grade and did not integrate into the society of the junior high school very effectively. I wasn't particularly nice or pleasant to the other kids and held myself aloof, and also had a rather thin skin about being teased and mocked, which wasn't a good recipe for speedy acceptance. Almost overnight I acquired a reputation. In a small town, all new kids get a fair amount of curious attention; in my case I became a source of widespread amusement. Eighth and ninth graders aren't widely known for their tolerant attitudes or their easy acceptance of people who are different, and these small-town dynamics made it worse for me, but I think it is important to point out that I didn't start off being very tolerant of their differences from me either. I was often a hostile and judgmental sissy, glaring at masculine boys and disapproving of their way of being in the world. It's just that I was just severely outnumbered!

The social clusters where I eventually put down roots were the Boy Scouts (which tended to have a high concentration of geeky boys who liked to read science fiction), band and choir, and, finally, the loosely affiliated cluster of kids who attended pot parties. The latter group is a counterintuitive group for a kid like me to have found welcome, but that, too, is heavily shaped by factors that were specific to Los Alamos. Unlike larger communities, or the suburbs of built-up metropolitan areas of the country, the kids in Los Alamos did their partying mostly outdoors on that undeveloped land I was talking about. And one thing that meant was that you did not need an invitation to be at a party, nor was the party taking place at some host's home, a host who might declare some unpopular kid unwelcome.

The general attitude of adults — parents, teachers, policemen, etc — towards teenagers was an interesting combination of permissive and dismissive. Our behaviors were tolerated with very little effort to shut us down; we were not generically regarded as troublemakers nor our inclination to gather as a worrisome precursor to vandalism and other crime. That hands-off attitude also manifested as a disinclination to insert themselves into our affairs and change how we treated each other, and as a consequence of that I was pretty much on my own, interacting with a contingent of kids my own age who had very few constraints on their behavior towards me.


I am now echoed on DreamWidth, like many other LJ folks. My DW acct is here. Please friend/link me on DW if you are a DreamWidth user.


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
I was listening to NPR last week while eating breakfast and they were discussing the release of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" and talking about the rise of disco music in the '70s.

I confess: I'm one of those people who really dislike disco music.

It's a point of divergence between me and male gay culture (if not each and every gay guy) and, in our larger culture, disparagement of disco music by males is more than marginally associated with homophobia. It gets worse: I like rock, hard rock, the cultural home ground of many of the males known for chanting "disco sucks!" and the form of 20th century music associated with grandstanding males strutting around onstage with their penis-guitars angled upwards and out at the audience.

Disco was hated and ridiculed, we are told, by rock audiences for being light and happy fun and, in particular, for being associated with the urban gay scene. Not wanting to be tagged by others as belonging to that homophobic cohort, I've been a lot more reticent about my opinions of disco than I was as a young adult, but I still don't like the stuff.

For me, being genderqueer was an indirect factor in becoming a fan of hard rock, odd though that may seem to some folks. I walked the hallways of junior high school in the early 1970s as a male who had spent elementary school identifying with the girls. My hormones were kicking in and my sexual attraction to girls was becoming a lot more imperative and important to me, but within a few short years I found that it was going to be complicated to be a male who was one of the girls and was also into them sexually.

Being attracted to girls gave me something in common with the boys. There hadn't been many other factors that did and I had done what I could to repel classification as one of them, because I considered them violent, abrasive, stupid, coarse, crude, hatefully mean, insensitive, and disgusting. You know, snakes snail and puppy dog tails and all that.

But right around this time I became increasingly aware of an alternative portrayal of maleness, the flower child hippie countercultural guy. He was willful and rebellious but peaceful, nonviolent, and accepting. Everything was cool except being a downer and disapproving of someone else's thing, and we could all do our own thing, you dig? He wasn't into all that military violence-glorifying stuff or the authority-struggle impetus to be the one to boss others around. He grew his hair long and played music and wrote poetry and talked about love, gonna love one another right now, and all men are your brothers. He was, in other words, a lot more like the girls than the conventional notion of how boys were supposed to be.

And the bonus was that he was sexual, he was sexually active, girls found him cute and there was a model of sexuality that was a lot more mutual-sounding. On the one hand, get rid of all that puritanical uptight rule-making stuff about sex being restricted, let's set it free, forget promises and marriages and sexual jealousies and possessiveness, just do it when it feels right. On the other hand, no more putting down of girls for putting out, no more enshrining virginity, all this freedom is supposed to be for both sexes, and that means no heavy trips being laid on girls trying to make them do stuff.

So although I didn't get there overnight, I gradually drifted towards this new identity. It didn't feel like I was turning my back on being like the girls but it allowed me to embrace an identity in common with the boys. And so for awhile in my life boys were not "them" and instead there was some semblance of "we".

And "our" music was rock. Rock was passionate, fervent, serious emotive music. It was associated with hippies and social change and "meaningful" things.

But then disco took over. There were a limited number of radio stations in northern New Mexico and they changed format and stopped playing Led Zeppelin in favor of dropping the needle on KC and the Sunshine Band. Songs warning us about the grand illusion or reaching for higher consciousness at the risk of going insane were replaced by songs about boogie fever. Disco infested the airwaves, it stole our stations, and it was everywhere, unavoidable.

Disco seemed airheaded, frivolous, and yet also seemed to from a colder social world of popularity-seeking and of flirting on the dance floor and appearances being above substance; it came from a world of velvet ropes and lines of people waiting while other people, cuter people and celebrities, were allowed to cut in and be admitted.

I was initially oblivious to how much macho masculinity still remained just below the surface of the countercultural male role. In my book I delineate the years of embracing this identity only to be disappointed and to find myself marginalized and ridiculed and left out. It was still too much masculinity and it was not where I belonged. I was similarly -- and simultaneously -- oblivious to the more aggressively masculine preening bragging and sexually threatening element in rock.

By the time I'd reluctantly jumped ship on the countercultural male identity thing, I'd passed through the years generally regarded as folks' musically formative years. I may roll my eyes when Robert Plant sings "gonna give you every inch of my love...way down inside, woman, you need it", but I still thrill to the driving sound of Kashmir.

I don't like disco's beat. I don't like that "boomp THUD boomp THUD" simplistic squared-off sound. I don't like the way that any fill-in notes from the instruments all tend to fall directly on subdivisions of the main beat; disco doesn't tend to syncopate, and it pounds mechanically like clockwork. It doesn't tend to have delicate fragile passages or thrilling driving phrases or soaring majestic constructions. Most of it sounds like short repeated loops with no build, like listening to the squonk and clatter of the escalator motor at the 51st street station platform.

But yeah, it's also my ponderously serious and boringly sincere personality coming to the fore. I've been told that if I were put in charge of film and theatre, every subsequent production would be a heavy-handed morality play with a Big Important Message with which to beat my audience over the head. I've been told that I really ned to learn a lighter shade of expression and learn how to entertain gently and gently season that with just a briefly sprinkled evocation of social relevance. And that I need to realize that disco was, for many people, a joyous celebration of finally being able to dance and move and flirt in a world that used to raid and batter and lock up gay guys simply for being in a gay-tolerant establishment.


I am now echoed on DreamWidth, like many other LJ folks. My DW acct is here. Please friend/link me on DW if you are a DreamWidth user.


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)

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."


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."


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.


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.


I am now echoed on DreamWidth, like many other LJ folks. My DW acct is here. Please friend/link me on DW if you are a DreamWidth user.


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
Last week I made another presentation to gender studies students, this time at Castleton University in Vermont. The hosting professor booked a lecture room -- one of those rooms with bleacher seating and a stage-like area up front for the lecturer -- and brought students from several classes to hear me speak. It was my largest single audience to date, about 65 people.

Before the presentation, he took me to dinner and got me checked in at the bed & breakfast, and we chatted about identity and growing up and coming out.

He warned me, "Now, this is a very non-diverse community. We're talking white rural people and small-town families, folks whose families have lived here for generations. They tend to be very stoic. They don't express surprise or amusement or agreement or disapproval, they keep their reactions inside. It's something that's an element of cultural pride in these parts". He took some more of his steak and potato and a sip of wine and continued, "Mark Twain came here once. People traveled from all around the area to hear him speak. And the whole time he spoke, they just sat very politely in their seats with their hands in their lap and didn't crack a smile the whole time".

I ended up being very glad that he had warned me about this. My audience was attentive enough, some people were even taking notes. No one was slouching and staring off in other directions or texting on their phones. But yeah, it felt like I was addressing a roomful of carved granite faces. I could not tell how I was doing other than by comparing my own rhythms and the pace at which I was going through my topic points to what I could recall of how I'd done those things in the past.

I was only able to elicit one question at the end, although it was a good one: "Do you find that people with a background in the hard biological sciences who focus on genetics and neurology to be resistant to these kinds of ideas?" (I replied with examples pro and con -- the "con" being researchers who were involved in trying to make a case for medical insurance companies being bound to covering medical transitioning for transgender people who seek it, and the "pro" example being neurologist Debra Soh and her column criticizing gender-neutral parenting).

Although it felt good overall to address yet another audience, the stone-faced audience left me feeling unsettled for several days, and eventually I realized it had evoked some associated emotional content for me, that it connected in my mind with a pattern I have some reason to worry about.

You see, back in 1980, when I was first coming out on University of New Mexico campus, I kept having the experience of handing out my writings and then going back to those same people to discuss the material, and people more often than not were cautious, saying very little about my core ideas and instead taking some small lateral idea and talking some about that. For instance, an older woman student from my Sex and Sexuality biology course talked about countercultural guys in the 1970s and how they had horrified their parents by growing their hair long and that their talk of peace and rejection of militarism had hit a button for the older generation who perceived them as very unmanly. It certainly wasn't irrelevant but it left me in the dark about what she thought about feminine guys upending the conventional notion of heterosexuality and what it could mean for feminism and for the rest of society and so on.

By the time my dormitory resident advisor was aking me to please go across the street and talk with the mental health folks at the university's medical center, I had spent an intense month trying to talk to people, trying to write my thoughts down and get students and professors and other people to read them and give me a reaction, and that had been the general pattern: people not directly addressing what I had brought up, and being very vague about what they thought of it, neither hostile and argumentative nor excitedly enthusiastic, just...cautious.

And because it was so important to me, this set of new ideas and their power to explain things, I began to imagine and guess a lot about what was really going on behind people's closed faces. I was expecting my ideas to be very polarizing: threatening to some people, exciting and revolutionary to others. Confronted with all these noncommittal reactions, I imagined that they were feeling highly ambivalent and needed more time to process these ideas. I imagined that they saw the potential impact but that some parts of that potential impact did not look like an unalloyed good thing, so they were holding back. I imagined that people who were gay or lesbian or were supportive of gay and lesbian rights and concerns were wondering and worrying that promoting the notion of a "heterosexual sissy" could have homophobic or hetero-normative social impact. I imagined that people who were feminist or feminist supporters were worrying about the impact of a male person pushing a new feminist-type agenda from so much of a "for his own personal reasons" standpoint, a very different thing than males being political participants in order to support women. I worried that conservative-minded people were hearing this as yet another assault on conventional sexuality and gender and were formulating negative and judgmental attitudes towards what I was describing, that their first reaction to "heterosexual sissy" was a disapproving and biased one. I imagined that people thought I actually had a different agenda of some sort, whether pro-male or pro-feminist or pro-homophobic or anti-christian or anti-transsexual or whatever. Or that what I was saying was going to play into one of those agendas.

I was really overthinking it all. The truth of the matter -- easier to look back on it and see it in retrospect -- is that most of them were not understanding more than a small spatter of what I was trying to communicate. And that a double-handful of the rest understood my main points but disagreed with me that they were important points and didn't see that they added any new understandings or new possibilities, that they didn't see why I was making a big deal out of this.

I have never believed that my mental state in spring of 1980 remotely justified placing me in a locked-ward setting and treating me as if I was incoherent. When I realized the extent to which I had been failing to make sense to people, and had disturbed them with all the intensity with which I was making the attempt, I laughed at myself and I reset my expectations immediately. I at no point in my life rejected the thoughts that had obsessed me then as nonsensical or as unworthy of the obsession. And I've gotten way better at expressing them, I think!

But I haven't forgotten the grandiose thought patterns. The tendency to assume I am affecting people whether they express their reactions or not, and, with that, the tendency to assume other thoughts in their heads -- their reaction-thoughts -- include reasons for them being so noncommunicative. Because I still do that. When faced with lukewarm or off-topic reactions to my material I tend more often to believe that what I've said or written has pushed some of their buttons, instead of jumping to believe that I didn't make sense to them or that they don't attribute any sense of value and importance to what I said.

Some of that is unavoidable. Any person attempting social change that involves putting forth new ideas has to rely on a degree of optimistic projection, of anticipating that their ideas will indeed affect people strongly. And you can't let indifferent reactions shut you down, because new ideas are, by definition, alien and will not be immediately and wholeheartedly embraced.

But it's unsettling. Grandiose extrapolation of this sort IS a form of not being fully in contact with what is real. It has gotten me into trouble in the past. And it is a way of thinking that does not come with its own built-in lid. It can self-perpetuate to the point of thinking that the outcome is preordained, the participants' roles already written in advance, and all people involved representatives of Huge Social Forces that they represent in this little theatrical play, very dramatic and with grave portent and Massively Important Things always hanging in the balance. It's addictive to anyone who is trying to have a genuine impact on the world in which they live. Don Quixote never wants to see himself as a silly fool trying to joust with a windmill that is neither a real opponent, nor the joust a purposeless endeavor with no possible meaningful outcome.


I am now echoed on DreamWidth, like many other LJ folks. My DW acct is here. Please friend/link me on DW if you are a DreamWidth user.


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
Women's Studies Coordinator Ann Peiffer and I were chatting after the evening of my final presentation at Mars Hill. We were talking, in part, about one male student who wants to be an ally and the limits of a person's role in someone else's struggle. I started talking about a critical turning point in my career as a women's studies student:

"When I became a grad student, it was in sociology. I was having some friction for trying to use a feminist perspective in my papers and for wanting to do a feminist project for my dissertation. But right around that time, a women's studies certificate program was being pulled together, they didn't have their own department yet but they crosslisted courses from English and History and Art and Anthropology and so on. Anyway, I was encouraged to take their feminist theory course.

"Unfortunately, the people who had pulled that together were mostly from the English department. And they had used poststructuralist theory to justify teaching authors like Toni Morrison and Alice Walker even though they weren't dead white European guys, you know, questioning the social construction of 'excellence' and all that. So that's what they were teaching as feminist theory. And it was... well you know, you've read that stuff, ...

"So after a few weeks I said, 'This is what you're teaching grad students as feminist theory? Your own students will theoretically someday be teaching undergraduate students--is THIS the material you want them to put out there to introduce new students to feminist thinking? It's opaque and really difficult to understand, and then when you understand it, it strips all the meaning out of things. You can't say women have a justifiable anger or a moral right to equality after you've just explained that everyone's sense of what is right is caused by their location in culture and time and that no viewpoint is privileged.' And I went on for a bit about how poststructuralist feminist theory is a problem for feminists."

Ann Peiffer nodded. I continued, "Well, the professor got annoyed and said 'Why don't you try being silent for awhile and experience what it is like to be marginalized. Do you realize you are a male student telling feminist women that we aren't doing feminism right?' And... of course she was correct. Highly embarrassing. But it was more than just that moment's conversation. It really rocked me back in my tracks. It made me question whether I could say the things I wanted to say, about my experience and identity and all that, from within women's studies. And eventually I decided it just wasn't going to work".

On March 29 and March 30, though -- 25 years after I abandoned my PhD attempts and left academia behind -- I made a successful reappearance in the women's studies classroom. Things are different now. Women's studies has embraced the wider subject matter of gender and, on many campuses, has relabeled and repositioned itself as Gender Studies, or as Women's and Gender Studies, or as Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies. And since last fall (dating back to when I thought my book was about to come out in print), I've been pitching the idea, via my publicist John Sherman, that those departments should consider having me as a guest speaker, to present my perspectives. Mars Hill said yes, so I rented a car and took off early Wednesday morning, driving for 11 hours to get there in time for my first presentation, to the evening-class session of Women and Society. Ann Peiffer met me and took me out to dinner for a first chance to talk a bit, and then took me to the classroom and introduced me, and I was on.

I have a generic presentation structure that I've been using, sort of a baseline skeleton, and then I vary it depending on the type of audience. I described "the binary"-the traditional simplified notion that there are two and only two categories, the man over here with his male body and masculine characteristics, and, distinctly different and other from that, the woman over here with her female body and feminine characteristics. Then I put up my main diagram, the scatter chart.

"This is STILL an oversimplification. It assumes all people are biologically either male or female, so it ignores intersex people. And it treats the other characteristics, all the behavior and personality and nuances and priorities and tastes, all that stuff that is typically associated with the two biological sexes, as if masculinity and femininity were polar opposites like left and right, when actually it might make more sense to think of them more akin to sweet and salty, where someone could be one, the other, both, or neither. And it pretends that people occupy one point on the graph, but people change constantly, during the day or according to their mood and so on. But it is LESS of an oversimplification than the original binary because it shows that you have a lot of variation within each sex, and that you have a lot of overlap, with some of the female-bodied people being way over here on the masculine side and some of the male-bodied people being way over there on the feminine side, even though the same general rule still applies, that men in general are more masculine and women in general are more feminine".

Talked about how generalizing isn't evil and this generalization isn't wrong, AS a generalization. Talked about moving from descriptive to prescriptive.

Then I introduced my cast of characters, individual people that I use in my presentation as a way of explaining the different experience of the same social world that conventionally masculine males and feminine females have when contrasted with the experiences of those expectations and predictions and assumptions by the folks who are outliers, masculine females and feminine males.

My characters have a mixture of sexual orientations, and I used that to illustrate the ways in which gender characteristics interact with sexual orientation. After awhile I identified myself on my diagram, my own location and my own experiences as a male femininine person sexually oriented towards female folks. I compared how my own experiences juxtaposed with those of the other characters I had described. This lets me contextualize my own situation, to show how it fits in against the backdrop of other folks' experiences.

We discussed the process of figuring out one's identity when the default mainstream expected identity isn't a good fit, and how a person comes to arrive at a divergent understanding of themselves from among the ones that are out there, socially available as alternative identities.

The next morning, after breakfast, I made the presentation a second time, to the daytime session of Women and Society, and then a final time (with some modifications for the shift in audience composition) to Safe Haven, the campus group for LGBT students and allies. I felt like all three went well and I had attentive people at all three of them and definitely felt like I was reaching them and that they were following what I was saying.

I had several good questions during the post-presentation discussion periods:

I find it interesting that you choose to have a beard. Does it interfere with your ability to get people to perceive you as a girl? (I reiterated that I accepted both my biological sex -- male -- and my gender -- girl, or feminine person. And we made some guesses about what girlish people would do with various male physical characteristics if they were the ones who had them instead of guys. I kept going back to the limitations of expressing as a male girl in a culture that has no notion of what a male girl would typically look like)

I have a female friend who has only recently realized she is genderqueer. She is always wanting to talk to me about it, she isn't finding this easy, and I don't know what to say to her to help her get through what she's going through (None of us had any easy pat answers to this, but several of us encouraged the male student who had posed the question to realize that by making himself available as a sounding board, someone she feels she CAN talk to, that that is being supportive. I asked if she likes to read, and suggested some memoirs and narratives, adding that it is helpful to read about how someone else who is like you came to terms with it)

I see on your handout you say you are polyamorous. Can you talk some about that? (I hadn't brought it up in the presentation. I talked about how a combo of 1970s vintage "hippie" ideals of free love and feminist critiques of sexual possessiveness had always appealed to my sense of how I thought things should be. And I talked aobut how multiple partners kept me from becoming so immersed in a relationship that I was a boring mirror that just reflected my partner's interests and didn't bring much to the relationship, and also how getting different feedback from different partners makes it easy to get a more 'objective' sense of how my behavior is coming across, instead of wondering if it is me or if it is just her).

There was a follow-up question, essentially What about jealousy? (I mentioned that as an atypical male, I was never going to be fully at ease with the idea that my partner would not miss the interactions with more conventionally masculine males if she'd had such relationships in the past, and that polyamory was a way of not asking her to give that up; and that, reciprocally, when I find a woman who does find me sexually appealing, I don't tend to think of other males as direct competition -- "Go have other boyfriends, sure! It may be easier for me to say that and not be worried about being replaced, because there's a low likelihood of her connecting with guys who are a lot like me". Went on to say that no one wants to be abandoned but that polyamory means not needing to discard one person in order to be with someone else. And I described the relationship summit, a periodic formal opportunity to air grievances and concerns and do a "state of the relationship" assessment, and said that poly people talk about jealousy all the time, that it is openly discussed.)

Can you describe a time when you had an effect on someone where you saw them go 'Whoa' and really change their perspective? (I described a gay rights activist I had appeared with long ago; he had told the audience he was sick and tired of gay guys being stereotyped as less manly or sissy, and he told them it wasn't manly to gang up on one guy and beat him up as a group. He challenged them: 'If you have a problem with me being gay, come up here and say it to my face.' It got a lot of appreciative applause in a 1980 classroom of Human Sexuality students; they appeciated the guts it took for him to take them on like that. He was less impressed with me when I spoke to the same classroom immediately after him. He said "So, your whole thing is that you don't want people to think you're gay, is that it?" I tried to explain about being a feminine guy and the assumptions that people make. "So? People think I'm straight lots of times, you don't think that gets awkward? Look, straight is the default. You shouldn't go around saying you're not gay, that just says you think being gay would be horrible. It's not necessary for you to go around saying you're the default". So I said back to him, "Well, YOU just spent several minutes explaining to this classroom that you aren't a sissy, that you're all masculine. Isn't masculine the default for males?" And he started to answer fast and then looked at me and it was like I could see that light bulb going on for him)

Do you experience dysphoria? (I think I gave a bad answer on this one. Or partly bad. I said "no". I said I had never felt like my body was wrong. I had come to believe that if people perceived me as female, I would be treated more as who I actually am, but the body ITSELF, physically, wasn't the problem, it was what people assumed because of it. I think I should have created a distinction between "physical dysphoria" and "social dysphoria" and said that most of the emotional content of dysphoria, as conventionally described, was very much what I have experienced, but that we do not tend to distinguish between "dysphoria because they think I am a guy or man" versus "dysphoria because my body is a male body"--the first one is social and the second one is physical. I should do that in the future: along with distinguishing between sex and gender, and between transsexuality and being genderqueer, I should create this distinction about forms of dysphoria.

What would you say to a cisgender heterosexual male who wants to be supportive of lesbian gay and transgender people and their rights? (This is where we came in. Before Ann Peiffer gave her own reply, I said that I would say to such a person 'Try to be aware of how YOU have been oppressed by homophobia and transphobia and sissyphobia and so on. Even as a cis male hetero person, there have to have been moments and situations where something you did drew some attention or comments. And all your life you have seen what happens to gay and sissy and gender-atypical people and, at least in the back of your head even if you were not conscious of it, some part of you was thinking I DO NOT WANT THAT TO HAPPEN TO ME. So you learned to tuck your odd corners under where they will not be seen, even if you had to do far less of that than gay and genderqueer and transgender people. That means things got taken away from you. Reclaim that. Avoid any self-censoring that is designed to keep observers from perhaps categorizing you as gay or whatever. And then you are participating in part for your own reasons, which is a good thing'.)


I am now echoed on DreamWidth, like many other LJ folks. My DW acct is here. Please friend/link me on DW if you are a DreamWidth user.


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
Status Update

1) I'm off to Mars Hill University on Wednesday. I'll be presenting to two classrooms and then in the evening to a public / campus audience. I'm very excited about it!

Women's studies in academia was the target of my first serious attempt to engage my world on these topics. I was a Women's Studies major from 1985 to 1988 and then attempted to bring feminist theory into the Sociology department as a grad student. Feminist theory had given me validation about being an atypically feminine male even back before I was out to myself, and it gave me a framework and a vocabulary to express my issues.

I entered grad school at what was perhaps an unfortunate time, just a few years prior to the point that gender studies became a new force in academia, but after the heyday of feminism as a rising social force, so perhaps feminist professors at SUNY / Stony Brook were defensive and territorial. I felt unwelcome trying to participate and engage with the grad school's Women's Studies Certificate Program. Nor was the mainstream Sociology department interested in either my topic or my radical feminist perspectives.

If I'd come along a few years earlier OR later, perhaps I'd be Dr. Hunter and lecturing on Tuesdays and Thursdays to a Gender and Society course or something.

At any rate, this feels like a triumphant return. I'll blog again about how it went (watch this space next week!).

Meanwhile, still trying to get my book published. I continue to query literary agents although I don't expect any real results from that, and with more optimism and enthusiasm I also continue to query small publishers.

Current stats:

Total queries to Lit Agents: 975
Rejections: 904
Outstanding: 71

Total queries to Publishers: 22
Rejections: 12
Outstanding: 6
No Reply 3+ Months: 3
Contract Signed / Publisher Subsequently Went out of Business: 1


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
"Dear Mr. Hunter", read the email message.

"Please find attached our agreement for your use of “In The Flesh?”. At your convenience, please forward a countersigned copy to my attention via email..."

And in the attached agreement, these terms:

> 1. We hereby grant you the non-exclusive right to reprint a
> lyric excerpt, at your sole expense and cost, throughout the
> United States and Canada, in and as part of the publication
> hereinafter referred to, from the following musical composition:
> “In The Flesh?” (the “Composition”).
> 2. The publication covered shall be: The Story of Q: A
> GenderQueer Tale by Allan Hunter (the "Publication").
> 3. The lyrics reprinted shall be as follows: “Are there any
> queers in the theatre tonight? Get them up against the wall.
> There’s one there in the spotlight, he don’t look right to me,
> get him up against the wall.” ...
> The title, writer credits and copyright notice should appear on
> the acknowledgment page exactly as follows:
> In The Flesh? Words and Music by Roger Waters Copyright (c) 1979
> Roger Waters Music Overseas Ltd. All Rights Administered by BMG
> Rights Management (US) LLC All Rights Reserved Used by Permission
> Reprinted by Permission of Hal Leonard LLC

It's finally official!

I blogged previously about the backstory on obtaining this permission. Today I thought I'd write about the backstory on why I'm quoting Pink Floyd in my book in the first place.

For me, realizing that I had a different gender identity than most of the people around me wasn't a sudden all-in-one-moment burst of self-awareness, like a light bulb switching on. But it also wasn't entirely not like that either. What happened for me was that I thought more and more about how I was a lot more like a girl than I was like a boy, but I didn't know where to go with that line of thought. I'd obsess about it for a while and then I'd slam the door on those ideas, feeling very uncomfortable with it all. And then later on in the week I'd start obsessing about it all over again.

And when I wasn't obsessing about it, I continued to hold on to other perceptions of myself. So I had different notions about my identity that were in play within my mind all within the same time frame, in parallel.

I suspect that's how identity works for most people. You have inside your head your everyday image of yourself, how you've thought of yourself for some time, and you don't toss that out the window first and then consider a new one, but rather instead you entertain the new notion a bit, see how it fits, and maybe if it fits well you embrace it more and more and you think of yourself in the old terms less and less. I've heard people describe changes such as their journey from being a Christian believer brought up in the church to being an atheist (or, for that matter, vice versa) as being like that.

And for myself, I'd been through this kind of sea change once before. In elementary school and on up through the middle of junior high, I had consistently thought of myself as allied with the girls, despite being a male person in body, and one component of this shared sense of self was my belief in the authorities — teachers, parents, the adult world. The world that tended to approve of good behavior, good grades, attempts on children's part to be good citizens. Yet by the time I graduated from high school I had changed sides and was anti-establishment, a rebel-hippie, an anti-authoritarian and a social-activist wannabe. And that self-image, of myself as part of that particular mold, that self-image was largely distilled from male role models. The peace-and-love flower-child component of that model of masculinity, as well as the easy and free anti-coercive "do your own thing, do it if it feels good, don't be trying to be The Man and laying heavy head trips on folks and bossing them around", all that stuff, painted an alternative masculinity that for the first time in my life didn't strike me as toxic. And meanwhile as I'd gotten older I'd seen the feet of clay of the adult authorities I had formerly admired and emulated.

It wasn't an overnight change. I oscillated and my attitude and mood varied, but over time I set aside my faith in the establishment (and in particular my faith that the authorities would protect me from bullying and make it safe for me to be myself) and instead came to see authority and coercive enforcement as just another form of bullying. I didn't directly perceive myself as shifting my gender identity, but the flower-child hippie model of maleness did happen to include a general aura of being sexually active and having girlfriends, whereas I had no working model for how to continue to be one of the girls and also to have sexually active relationships with girlfriends.

Years later, that was all unravelling in my head, and I was increasingly conscious that for most of my early life I had thought of myself in girl terms, emulating girls, admiring girls, incorporating girls' values, seeing them as people like myself. And that others had similarly seen me as girlish and had reacted to me as such. And, furthermore, that beneath the veneer of "flower child", the countercultural male model I'd been trying to inhabit was still too immersed in aggressive and confrontational dynamics, power games, and, in particular, sexually licentious lewdness towards girls that wasn't particularly egalitarian or mutual, and which had not worked for me, just didn't fit me.

That's what had started popping into my head that season: that my attempts to become involved with girls and be sexually active and have relationships had not worked precisely because I was too much like a girl myself, and always had been, to play the expected role and be comfortable with the behavioral expectations.

But unlike the first transition (from girl-identified pro-system person to flower-child), this one wasn't leading me anywhere. Just away from.

If it were true, that I was effectively one of the girls in all the meaningful ways except my body, then I wasn't like the straight boys who have the relationships with girls, which is something I wanted. Nope, I wasn't like them, I wasn't one of them. So what did that make me??

It was widely assumed that I was gay and in denial about it or not "out yet", etc etc. I was attracted to girls and liked girls and admired girls, and yet I had once wondered if this were possible anyhow, that I was gay and lying to myself somehow, you know? But no, some experimentation had confirmed that I just don't find male people sexually attractive, and yeah I really do desire girls, I just didn't seem able to convert that attraction into things happening with them. Because, apparently, I was too much of a girl myself. So once again what did that make me, then?

I'd picked up and read books by people who identified as transsexual* (male to female in particular), and that was an eye-opener for sure. Autobiographical accounts from people born male but who said they'd always been one of the girls, that it had always been their identity — just like me! But in every case, in each of the books I could get my hands on, the author ended up seeking out and obtaining sex reassignment surgery, after which they lived their lives as female people, and they had sexual and romantic relationships with men. I didn't see my body itself as being wrong. I had always been one of the girls, just like these authors, and I had been a male-bodied person, which didn't seem any more wrong to me than being one of the girls. And I wanted sexual things to happen between me and female people, not between me and male people, that was my sexual orientation.

So it was very frustrating, obsessing about all this, because there were no solutions. I couldn't get a girlfriend because I was basically a girl. I wasn't a straight guy. I wasn't a gay guy. I wasn't a transsexual male-to-female candidate. What the hell was I, then?

My mind would go back to it and then run away from it in dismay, no answers there.

In December 1979, some people on my dorm corridor asked me to help them move a friend's furniture to a new apartment, and in exchange we would all trip acid and listen to a new Pink Floyd record, one that I'd never heard. Sounded groovy to me. So I did, and we did. The album was The Wall.

Several hours later, with me on a good couple doses of LSD, the stereo speakers were yelling at me, "Are there any queers in the theatre tonight? Get them up against the wall. There’s one there in the spotlight, he don’t look right to me, get him up against the wall." I certainly fit the description of someone who "don't look right to me", as I was white-faced and trembly with terror that someone could put so much of my life onto a record album. And I realized that yeah, this is not just a notion that has gotten lodged inside my head, this is real. I'm different in a way that can be described and identified by others, from the outside, and it isn't going away, this is who I am and this will be a central factor for me for the rest of my life.

So, forced to confront it head on, no more running away from it, I experienced the final critical transformative moment in my gender identity shift. I still didn't have a name for it but it was who I was: a person in a male body (which wasn't wrong) who was effectively one of the girls (which also wasn't wrong, I was proud of it) who was attracted to female people sexually, and it made me as different as any gay or lesbian or bisexual person, as different as any transsexual person, definitely queerly different in this specific way. And I had to come out now, it was time to be who I was and be seen for who I was, if I were ever going to form meaningful relationships in this world.

I'm curious to know who else in the LGBTQ community had a specific realization point, a game-changing moment like what I've described.

* "Transsexual" was the word in use at the time; some people find it offensive now, but it is not my intention to offend anyone.


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
Traditionally, the approach of a new year is a time to make resolutions. In a similar vein, I tend to do self-assessments and self-reevaluations this time of year, not only because of the change of calendar year but also because my birthday rolls around quite close to it.

I do a lot of my best self-assessment and sortings of feelings during the course of long walks. In December I set out early on a particularly long one, from the Herricks / Williston Park edge of New Hyde Park where I live to the MetroNorth station in Greenwich CT, 45 miles. Plenty long enough for contrary or hidden thoughts and feelings to come forth from the back of my head.

People on Facebook and LiveJournal were already talking about how their year has been or what they were anticipating would go on during family-centric holiday visits, and I was going to be visiting my family down in Georgia with A1, one of my partners. While a person's identity within their nuclear family is not the only important cradle of Self, it's obviously a central one for most of us. My parents are still alive and cognizant in their early 80s and there are still conversations I imagine having with them, and the timeframe in which those conversations is still possible is shrinking.

Mostly those are specific subsets of conversations I want to have with the world at large, and I still haven't had those conversations to my satisfaction.

36 years ago I figured out that who I was, "how" I was, was like one of the girls or women, not like other guys; that being sexually ATTRACTED to female people didn't change that (despite giving me that one distinct reference-point in common with the majority of male-bodied people); that there was nothing wrong with my body, either, I was a male girl or a male woman, and that goddammit that wasn't going to be MY problem any more, I was totally cool with that, and if the rest of the world wanted to take issue with it I was prepared to have that conversation.

The rest of the world was not prepared for it.

Here I am 36 years later and although there is a word "genderqueer" that is helpful and appropriate, it isn't specific to my situation and identity and there still isn't a term that is. Or not one that the world at large recognizes and understands.

36 years is a long time. Long enough to wonder and worry that I may have squandered the resource known as "my lifespan", trying to do something social-political, trying to start this conversation, trying to put my gender identity on the map.

So I was out doing one of those periodic self-exams to assess how I'm doing with all this, how I feel about it. It was a complicated year, with presentations to Baltimore Playhouse and to EPIC and then a publisher indicating that they wanted to publish my book, but then the publisher went out of business which was a major emotional setback for me. I had been thinking I was on the cusp of a success in a venture I'd started pursuing in 1980 and then had to adjust to having this rug yanked out from under me. I seemed to be coping and I appeared to be continuing on the same course, but it had left me shocked and numb, where I was unusually unsure how I FELT.

In fact, for that matter, I hadn't really come to terms with how I felt about finally getting published, THAT was still not a fully processed set of feelings, so I had a backlog of self-awareness and passion to which I was still somewhat closed off.

Verdict, 45 miles and 19 hours later? I'm reasonably satisfied. Still pissed off. I still have it all to do and have accomplished damn little of it, but setting out to grab the world by its collective lapels and have this discussion was a rational and admirable response to my situation in 1980, and it is a rational and admirable response today, too, and because I am the stubbornest sissy male girlish person to ever walk the surface of this planet I am going to continue with what I started.

I wrote a damn book. It's a GOOD book if I don't mind saying so myself. It's not the only possible mechanism for communication but it's an excellent tool and a good centerpiece to continue to organize my overall efforts around. And I will be speaking again to groups and audiences in 2017, including a rebroadcast on Off the Cuffs in February and a presentation to the Women and Gender Studies program at Castleton University in Vermont in April.

My parents have mostly avoided and tuned out my attempts to explain my gender identity and why it's important and why I want to talk about such personal things to strangers and risk driving away friends and acquaintances and associates. I don't really feel a need to force that door open with them; I do understand that they grew up in an era where much of the subject matter itself was rude lewd and inappropriate, and I've outgrown the urge to shock them.

But I wish I could find a path to discuss just enough of what I'm doing these days to be able to say to them that home was safe for me growing up, a refuge. That I knew people (relatives, school teachers, neighborhood adults, others) signalled to them that they should worry that I wasn't exactly normal, but they dismissed that and never made me feel that who I was was of questionable nature in their eyes. Instead, they stressed that one cannot excel without departing from the typical-normal, and that life was not about being like everyone else.

I'm going to find another publisher. My book will be in print. People will read it. I will tell my story to the world.

I'm only 58 and I ain't packing it in anytime soon. I'm going to live to 110 if only to spite all the people who queer-bashed me in junior high school.

Continue on course.


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
"What do you people mean when you say you're 'really women inside', anyway?", she posted, challenging us. "You folks apparently want us to believe that your minds, or hearts or whatever, are like those of us who were born female. But you've never been female, so how do you know whether who you are on the inside is like who we are on the inside? Frankly, it's pretentious and arrogant! You're appropriating women's experiences and women's identity!"

Well, she's got a point. None of us who were not born female know from first-hand experience what it is like, "inside", to be one of the people who were born female, and yet it is to them that we are comparing ourselves, and with whom we are identifying ourselves, when we say our gender is woman despite having been born male.

But although it's not as obvious at first glance, she's in the same situation.

She identifies as a woman. She considers herself to have elements and aspects of herself that are things she has in common with other women. But she's never been any other women, she's only been herself. Her only firsthand experience is of herself, and therefore if she limits herself to firsthand experience, she can't know how much of who she is represents what she has in common with other women, and how much is specific to herself as an individual. The only way she can extrapolate a sense of a shared identity as "woman" is by external observation and recognizing, from the outside, patterns and commonalities.

Which is what we're doing, too.

Notice that, like most everything else involving gender, it is a process of generalization. We observe women and generalize about our observations. We observe our own selves and generalize there, too, in identifying traits and tendencies, whether we do it consciously or unconsciously.

For quite some time now, I have described myself as a male-bodied person who is a girl or woman. That's an identity, it's a conclusion, and it's a political statement. But it's also a generalization when you get right down to it.

Not too long ago on Facebook, in response to a post about whether other genderqueer folks in the group have moments of self-doubt and a sense of being an imposter who doesn't really (always) feel the way they've described themself, I posted that I've been all over the map between "I'm sure all males experience themselves as inaccurately & inadequately described by the sexist reductionistic descriptions, I'm just more vocal about it" through "I am definitely more like a girl than I am like the other boys, so that's one more difference in addition to being left-handed and having eyes of two different colors" all the way to "I am a girl; this is a really fundamental part of my identity and explains my life far better than any other thing, I am Different with a capital D and this is the Difference".

Ever since I posted that, it's been sort of echoing in my head. Hmm, why don't I have a stronger tendency to think of myself as one of the guys who feels very badly defined by the sexist ideas of what it means to be a man?

I certainly have gone through periods in my life when I thought of myself in those terms. In the timeframe from about a year after I came out at UNM in 1980 — let's say 1981 or 1982 — until I finally withdrew as a graduate student from SUNY / Stony Brook in 1996, I put aside my sense of myself as fundamentally different from (other) guys. I wrote about that somewhat in 2015 in a post about repositioning

Essentially, I spent those years not only trying to "join up" with the feminist movement but also expecting to be in the vanguard of males with a serious personal grudge against the whole "being a man" thing in our society, expecting to meet other such people and then I would connect, feel far less alien among male-bodied people. My alienation would be towards the patriarchal sexist idea of what it means to be male, and I would not be alone in that.

And I wrote, and I spoke, and I went to the library and sought out books and magazine articles, and I went online and joined email-based groups. But I didn't find them.

Here's what I found instead:

• Warren Farrel's The Liberated Man, and sensitive new age guys, and articles about how bad it is that we male folks aren't allowed to cry or wear pink ties. Gimme a break.

• Men's rights groups of angry divorced men who want custody of their children or freedom from sexist alimony considerations, but who weren't considering themselves to be at all on the same team as feminist women, just using "sexual equality" as a tool towards making their argument

• "Profeminist" men's groups in which the tone was mostly abject self-abasement, shame and apology for how our male jackboots have been on the throats of women and how our positions of privilege benefit us unfairly. All of which is true but there was a severe lack of any profound emotional connection to wanting things to be different for any personal reason, any personal benefit to things changing. A mild consideration for the situation of gay guys but no sense of having found others like me.

• John Bly and Sam Keen and their drums and male-bonding, reinventing or rediscovering what it might and could mean to be a man. No strong sentiment of being angry about the whole "being a man" thing being imposed on us, or of feeling "that ain't me", though. Kind of reminded me of Boy Scouts.

... and as time went on, I had reason to question my standoffish disinclination to identify with any of these movements or groups of guys: What, do I have a need to be the most radical of anti-patriarchal males and therefore a need to see any and all other males as less so, or something like that?

What I realized, especially after I'd been drummed out of academia, was that I'd suppressed the sense of being personally different in order to emphasize this as a social movement against a social system. But in my original burst of self-understanding, I had specifically seen myself as a person who was like one of the girls instead of being like one of the boys, despite being male.

In other Facebook post, I made an off-the-cuff comment in passing about genderfluid people being the ones who have "girl days" and "boy days", and some genderfluid people replied to correct me: "Hey, I am never a 'boy'... I am fluid between being agender and being on the feminine spectrum"; "I float somewhere between being a demiboy and being a man, I hate it when I get misgendered and people say 'she' or 'maam'.."

"GENDERFLUID", in other words, refers to a wider and more general notion of a gender identity that shifts from time to time or context to context. Not the limited "oscillates between the two conventional genders" model I tend to associate with it.

So as it turns out, I guess I do fall into the description. My description of myself as a "male girl" (et al) is a generalization. And a choice in how to present, how to describe.

So far, I have sent out inquiry letters to women's studies / gender studies / sexuality studies departments and programs at universities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia. (Or, more specifically, my publicist sent them out — the emails went out from him and replies to the emails go back to him).

Two programs have made replies asking when I'm available and how much I charge including travel and room and board charges. Nothing definite but it's exciting. One is in Vermont and one is in Virginia.

Meanwhile I've gone back to querying lit agents (even if it's mostly a waste of time), and I have a query in front of a publisher. Today I sent a follow-up letter to a publisher to whom I sent a query back in April, because they'd indicated that I would hear from them within a few weeks. If their policy was "we will only contact you if we're interested", which isn't uncommon, that would be a different thing, but in this situation I decided to nudge them.

Current Stats:

Total queries to lit agents: 822
Rejections: 805
Outstanding: 17

As Nonfiction: 601
Rejections: 584
Outstanding: 17

As Fiction: 221
Rejections: 221
Outstanding: 0

Total queries to publishers: 14
Rejections: 9
Outstanding: 1
No Reply 3+ Months: 3
Pub Contract Signed, Then Publisher Went out of Business: 1


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
I had a very good time with the editor Barbara Rogan's author's colloquium, which ended last Thursday. Unlike some of these courses, which often focus on teaching a technique and then leave you to the task of applying what you learned to your actual work on your own time afterwards, this was one that encouraged us to use our work-in-progress as the source of material that we would submit to be examined and critiqued by the editor teaching the class and by the other participating students.

So I very much took it as an opportunity to put my book in the shop for some body work and a facelift. Several of the scenes I submitted were scenes I'd been thinking of punching up, and did so before submitting them and then modified them after getting feedback. Then I continued with other scenes from my book that were never submitted to the class, drawing on ideas and the energy percolating from all the sharing.

Here's an overview of the modifications to the manuscript:

• Early in the book there is a short overview of childhood in which it is established that as a child I identified with the girls and my friends were girls up until around 4th grade when it fell apart; the main body of the book begins with me in 8th grade, starting in a new school. Clarified brief internal-monologue in 8th grade in which I'm musing that 3rd grade, when I had girl friends, was a long time ago, if I'm going to have friends at all "I needed to learn how to be around boys… and stop thinking of boys as them."

because it needed emphasis; story line parses better when it is understood that I've put that "one of the girls" understanding of myself behind me as kid's stuff.

• Inserted new gym class locker room scene in which the other boys throw my underwear in the toilet while I'm showering, + replaced a bland narrative with a full-dialog scene in the guidance counselor's office in which I demand that those boys be expelled, counselor says "not gonna happen, you didn't see them do it", says "you need to pick your battles", and warns me he can bring them in but they're more likely to retaliate & what are my goals here?

first, because I needed a more fully fleshed-out "being bullied" scene and second, because many readers of my book kept saying "I want to see your character react more, all this bad stuff happens and he doesn't get all freaked out and angry and scared". So I realized I needed to establish more clearly that when he (i.e., me) HAD reacted he had been taught in various ways that no one was going to help & that not letting this stuff get to him is necessary and important. (And, as I said in class, "I think if the MC reacted with disbelief and outrage, anger and fear at each of these occurrences, it would be exhausting and tiresome and would take away from the gut-punch moments where the things that happen really shred him pretty awful.")

Those were in the first long chunk of the book. The balance of the changes were towards the end, in the last major chunk, where things come to a climax and resolution. I had been feeling for some time now that I needed this section to be a more vivid burst of triumph and joy—after my readers have borne with me through all the difficult and unpleasant trials leading up to it, too damn much of my "success story" portion was abstract and intellectual, and the parts that contained actual action were too often told as summary narrative and I needed stuff to pop a lot more here.

• There's a party scene where my character (i.e., me) is frustrated that going to these parties over the years hasn't resulted in connecting with any girls and having either sex or sexual relationship as an outcome. Original scene had him musing sourly to himself that maybe he ought to try acting like other boys and coming on blatantly to girls and not caring if THEY want sex etc, -- classic "Nice Boys™" sour angry stuff -- and he tries it cynically and bloody hell it works! Or he enough of it working to startle him. Redid it as a full dialog scene with named characters and body language and the smell of smoke and the music being played, etc

• Turning point scene is where character is listening to Pink Floyd's "The Wall" for the first time while tripping and feels outed by the music. Also redone as full dialog scene with named characters and more interaction, less summary. Also stripped out all but the most central line from the music itself (copyright issues).

• Figuring-stuff-out scene shortly afterwards, Christmas vacation with friend from college, parent's home front porch, redone with the friend used as a foil to have an out-loud conversation, replacing inside-the-head internal monologue summary stuff. Let the other guy be devil's advocate and argue against some of what I'm putting forth, to let me elaborate and clarify in my responses.

• Inserted new scene, coming out to my parents. Actually happened more awkwardly and earlier when I knew less, but helps to flesh out relationship with parents and clarifies how they reacted & felt about me being different "in this way".

Because reviewers have periodically said they wanted to see more about family interactions. Mostly missing in action because there wasn't much to write about: like the dog who didn't bark, my parents were parent who didn't say and do homophobic / sissyphobic things; it's hard to incorporate the absence of a behavior into a story; this is one of the rare opportunities to show their attitude including both their lack of judgmental disapproval and the limits of their interest in discussing or listening to me talk about it.

• Two post coming-out scene in the Siren Coffeehouse (feminist coffeehouse) were punched up with more dialog and more evocative descriptions of the people I interacted with, because I was flirting as well as seeking political-social allies, and my character (me) flirting and feeling sexually confident is a triumphant thing and needed more pop and color

• The last "trauma" of the book is one of those late-in-plot teases, a reappearance of Bad Shit after things have finally started going the character's way etc — in this case, university folks find his behavior disturbing and ask him to be checked out by the psychiatrist "just to alleviate concerns" and his agreeement is treated as a self-commitment to locked ward. Rewrote the arrival scene where he's first brought in, first discovers that he didn't merely consent to a conversation with the school shrink but is being held there, first interaction with the others on the locked ward: redid with full dialog, more solidly fleshed-out characters (the attendant, etc) again to make it pop

• Inserted new scene with dialog with two male gay activist types after a Human Sexuality class in which my character and those two folks presented to the class.

• Inserted new scene of conversation with a transsexual woman in which they discuss transsexuality and my character's own peculiar sense of gender identity, after he is introduced to her by one of the gay guys in the previous scene.

Those two events did not happen in real life at that time, or at all precisely as described, but similar conversations took place about 4 years later. Greatly add to continuity, action, excitement, fleshing out of issues, use of contrast and compare to more fully explain my character's gender / sexuality identity.

• scrapped overly long postlogue in favor of highly condensed flash-forward to give more of a sense of a successful gender-activist life. Previous version tried to do a fast-forward summary of life from approximately the end of the previous chapter to current era; blah and boring and overly long and tedious. New version starts in present era, crisply identified with the closing of a web browser window in sentence 1, main character off to do a presentation on gender issues and genderqueer as a specific category of gender identity. That along with short conversation with girlfriend (and a later "oh and her, well this is how me met" snippet) and a passing reference to a published article do a much better job of "and he lived happily ever after" as well as being much more concise and streamlined.

I am INDEED doing a presentation about being genderqueer, two of them in fact, one later on in April down at Baltimore Playhouse on the 29th and then again at the EPIC Conference in Pennsylvania May 12-16. I need to review my notes and subject anais_pf to listening to me rehearse! But I'm very much looking forward to it.

I'm querying again. Modified my query letter slightly, modified my synopsis a bit (some agents want a synopsis), and of course sample chapters all reflect the above changes. I've got a damn good book here and I will see it into print.


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
I'm deep into the author's conference that started on Feb 4, with our 4th weekly assignment turned in last Thursday and comments still trickling in on what we wrote (and replied to that other people wrote) from the previous week, assignemnt 3, as well.

I'm on pins and needles because for both assignment 3 and assignment 4 what I turned in are scenes from my book that specifically highlight my sexuality and my attempts, at the time, to get things to work and/or figure out why they weren't working. And so it's personal and it's hard not to just talk their ears off explaining and elaborating in response to every little tidbit of feedback.

Assignment 3: a scene where your character is in a difficult situation and how they handle it

Assignment 4: a scene full of dialog in which what a character says is at odds with what character actually feels or believes

For Assignment 3, I snipped a bit from "Back to University", where a girl in my college class invites me back to her room and I'm hoping she fancies me and things will develop; but she talks about her divorce and how she sometimes misses staying in bed on a rainy weekend and having nonstop sex, and I get all self-conscous about being a virgin and not knowing how the heck people figure out how to get from "friends" to "yeah and sex".

For Assignment 4, I snagged a section from the previous chapter, about 6 months' prior to the Asgn 3 event in real life, where I was at a party and wondering why the hell I never get a girlfriend or get laid and I get all cynical and wonder what would happen if I just act like other boys, in other words be overt about seeking sex and pretend like I don't care if she does or not... and holy shit, the girl I try it out on doesn't get pissed off, she SAYS that I'm being disrespectful and she's not that kind of girl etc but she's bantering with me. And it freaks me out quite a bit (and confirms my cynical anger about How Things Are) and I quit playing

The feedback is interesting (and I crave more more more feedback dammit, and discusson and stuff!).

In general: the others in the class see my main character (that would be ME) as sexless or asexual in Assignment 3, and then in Assignment 4 so far (feedback just starting to trickle in) they see my behavior with this girl as totally normative, completely missing that I'm acting in anger and contempt, that I'm acting out of character and that this isn't at all what I want, this demeaning humiliating game. And they ask "Gee why did your MC stop? Did he fail to get that the girl was into him?"

This all constitutes a mixture of good and frustrating results. Good, that people read the scenes and without prompting, and without me pounding them over the head lecture style, they perceive "Hey wow, you experienced yourself as a sexual being who just wasn't having any success, and yes indeed the reason is that your participation was so different from 'normal boy' behavior that you were completely off their radar, you came across as sexless" in Asgn 3. And good, that I did not have to claim that the girl was interested in me, or that my verbally sexually aggressive behavior (overtly asking for sex, not letting it drop when she says no) was in fact normative and that I was copying boy-behavior I'd seen all around me.

What's more frustrating is that my book needs to get people inside MY head, the MC's head, and with the others in the class reading a scene here and a scene there, I can't know (yet) whether they'd have a clearer sense of my feelings and attitudes and, well, my sexuality, if they'd read up to this point in the book instead of just being dropped down into this scene.

In our "introduce yourself" first emails to classmates, I did say I was genderqueer, without much additional explanation: "I'm genderqueer. (sort of like being trans, which you've probably heard more about; more on that later)". I think most of them have forgotten, I haven't brought it up since then.

I did reply "backchannel" (i.e., to her email address alone, not to the group as a whole) to one other author, because she replied to my Asgn 4 immediately, on Thursday, and I wanted an early feel for "if I explain a little, does it click into place?") -- and that went very well, she said not only these two scenes but another one featuring me being beaten up for very little discernable reason, suddenly made a lot more sense.


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
Basically, movements like ours tend to have two goals: to reach out to others like ourselves, in the belief that if you're like us it's easier to have the support of other similar people than to be isolated; and to do social change, to modify how we're treated by others, to stop the mistreatment or oppression, to change the law or the social structures, so as to make the world safe for ourselves.

Today, I want to focus on the second priority, the social change fork.

I don't know what your experience was, but I first ran into hostility, directed towards me for being different, when I was a kid in school. I found it startling, shocking; I hadn't expected it and didn't understand it. Why were these people so hateful and mean?

Looking back on it with the additional benefit of hindsight and a lifetime of thinking about it, I'm aware of a couple of things that escaped my notice in 4th grade:

• To a lesser extent than what they were displaying, but still definitely present within me, I was hostile to THEIR differences from ME as well; mixed in with my anger and hurt was some outrage: how DARE they, I mean LOOK at them, they're pathetic, something's wrong with them, how can they be that way instead of being like me and then on top of that be so wrongheaded as to think I'm the one who deserves to be made fun of? They should look in a mirror, yeesh!!

• They had a notion of what my differences meant. It was all distorted and badly wrong in a lot of ways, and it was shot through with contempt and ridicule, and basically didn't reflect any meaningful understanding of me, but they apparently THOUGHT they understood what it meant to be like me, and they were largely in agreement with each other.

We tend to form our notions of dogs in large part from our experiences with dogs, but our notions of hippopotamuses almost exclusively from what we've heard about them and how they're depicted.

When it came to male-bodied people (or people perceived by their classmates and teachers as male) who act like girls and share the interests of girls and so forth, I was often the first direct experience for many of the other kids in 1st and 2nd grade; they hadn't formed a lot of attitudes yet, and although there was some of that basic xenophobia thing — "eww, why are you like that, you're different?!?" — it didn't get bad until later.

The boys and girls who had class with me talked about me to other kids, because it's an item of curiosity, something to be described with a mixture of fascination and revulsion. Their description of me and how I act was formed from their experience of me, although of course shaped by how my behaviors seemed to them, and would not have tended to include much of any self-description by me of my own behaviors and how I saw them.

Within a couple of years, most kids my age had HEARD OF people like me, partly from this process (where kids describe someone that had been in their class who was like me) and partly from things they picked up from TV or things their parents or other adults said. Girlish boys were held up to ridicule for them before they met me, and still, in many cases, before they'd had much actual contact with anyone like me. So they observed a few things, sufficient to make them think "ooh, he's more girlish than any of the other boys in class, let's torment him, it'll be fun", anticipating that I'd rise to the bait and prove my boyish masculinity to their satisfaction... and when I didn't, and didn't try to conceal how I was, they had their first live one, one of those sissy boys they'd heard about. The circus was in town. Come see the weirdo!

This is the situation for marginalized minorities in a nutshell. Mainsteam people (e.g., cisgender conventionally binary people in our case) know about us primarily from what other mainstream people have said in the process of describing us to each other. There's a certain amount of not-very-friendly xenophobia ("ewww, you're not like me, why aren't you like me?") that probably can't be attributed strictly to social structures or "isms" of various negatively discriminatory sorts, but they're heavily fertilized and fed by what's inside the package of shared social attitudes towards us, the stories that the mainsteam have told themselves about us, and yes, in many cases they are also reinforced by institutions, social structures, systems that perpetuate our situation.

Laws can be overturned, policies can be set, and systems, especially formal systems governed by rules and whatnot, can be modified to make room for us, and to make those kinds of changes, it has proven useful and effective to appeal to mainstream people's sense of justice and to point to our injuries and the damages done to us and the unfairness and unnecessary nature of these hurtful things.

But formal structural rule-based aspects of society are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Attitudes may to some extent follow the path initially set by court decisions and institutional policy decisions, but for attitude changes to become pervasive, there has to be understanding, not just compliance.

Race — I dare say this as a white-skinned American who has never been on the marginalized side of racism — the concept that racism is wrong is easy for racially mainstream people to understand. People are born with one set or another of certain ethnic physical characteristics that we categorize as "white" or "black" or whatever; the people thusly categorized are otherwise not inherently different, and treating them on any level — institutionally, personally, culturally, etc — as if they WERE inherently different is wrong, immoral, unfair, has caused great pain and suffering. OK, in actual practice embracing and enacting a racism-free world is not quite as easy or as simple as we once hoped, but as a CONCEPT it has turned out to be something that people could grasp sufficiently well to make overtly racist attitudes socially unacceptable and viewed as reprehensible. Or possibly it only looks that way to me because it's 2015 and the long rough slog it took to get to this point stretches far back into our cultural past.

At any rate, gender and sexual identity, in my opinion, are largely NOT understood clearly by the mainstream folks. I think we're getting a decently generous batch of politically correct compliance and parroting back to us of the most common phrases likely to appear in newspapers and magazines about differently gendered people and our experiences, but it is accompanied by a lot of perplexity and pushback from people who resent being pressured to parrot those phrases when it makes no sense to them, they don't get it. They have some attitude, some annoyance, and some lingering xenophobia ("why can't you just be normal, why do you want to be a special freaking snowflake?"), but not such a high prevalence of real hostility and contempt so much as bewilderment.

Me, I'm not a 4th grader any more. I'm sure of myself and my gender identity, I am not plagued with nervous self-doubts about my difference, I understand how the pieces of the puzzle fit together, and I'm willing to be in the circus sideshow. Yeah, come see the weirdo. Ask your questions. Wanna hear my story? I'll tell you how it is, what it's like. Don't worry about offending me, I've heard worse, I assure you. Interact with me. Think about this stuff. I want you to understand. The more you mainstream folks understand the more you will hold attitudes that I want you to hold because they just plain make sense, not because everyone will point fingers at you and tell you you're an insensitive privileged cisgendered boor of an asshole who should be ashamed of yourself.

That is how I view our activity. I'm glad we're winning at the policy-change level, but the current rising trend towards correcting people for microaggressions and castigating them for triggering behavior and otherwise trying to roll out social change by demanding compliance before understanding, that doesn't appeal to me.

Even the phrase "social justice" is getting on my nerves lately. The word "justice" is a heavily loaded term. We live in a punitive society. The systems that dispense justice largely do so by identifying evildoers and perpetrators and violators and wrongdoers, and then punishing them, as well as or sometimes instead of stopping them from continuing to do so. And they are all of them systems that rely on authority, coercion, power over other people, to lend force to their implementations of justice. Oh, I understand anger, all right, and the gut-level desire to see the shoe forced onto the other foot, oh yeah WE shall coerce YOU and designate you as a perpetrator of our oppression and FORCE you to stop it, punishing each offense, identifying it as a social misdemeanor against us, connected historically with how we've always been treated up to this point, and if it makes you feel disempowered in the process, yay, so much the better, assholes. But it's morally wrong, it's tactically wrong, it's factually wrong, and it's, dammit, politically wrong.

I don't believe in the Culprit Theory of Oppression. I don't think the white cisgender able-bodied male people gleefully plotted everyone else's plight in the primordial paleolithic boys' bathroom and then subjected us all to this. I also don't think people intrinsically benefit from having power over other people and therefore are unfair beneficiaries whenever someone else is disempowered and silenced and marginalized and oppressed. Furthermore, if it were true, it that really were the case, YOU CAN'T FIX IT since if it is intrinsic, you are, by definition, saying that you would oppress if given the opportunity to do so; that anyone, ever, with the opportunity to oppress will do so; that anyone set up to be in a position of protective power to enforce equality will use that power to oppress, instead, because, well, it's intrinsically beneficial to them to do so.

It's a measure of how marginalized (ha! so to speak...) I am within our own activist communities that I just got booted from a Facebook group, the Genderqueer, Agender, Neutrois, Genderfluid, and Non-binary discussion. The precipitating event? Someone had posted a link to an article about Triggering. In the article, the author, Gillian Brown, said "Triggering occurs when any certain something (a 'trigger') causes a negative emotional response", and then went on to explain the necessity of preventing triggering from occurring, and the necessity of stepping in to protect people and keep the space SAFE by reminding people to put trigger warnings. I replied with some derision: by that definition, we would all have to preface anything that might cause a negative emotional response in anyone with a trigger warning. It's a silly definition. More to the point, this is simply not how I think we best make the world a safe space in which to be genderqueer people. We make the world safer by making ourselves understood. We make the world safer for ourselves by stepping out, being brave, being seen, letting people point and ask questions, by risking hostility and derision, by being brave enough to SHOW that we aren't going to be intimidated by the risk of hostility and derision, by not being ashamed of who we are.

It didn't go over well, apparently. (I can only conjecture; my membership in the group evaporated without any private message and I can only assume they decided I was a trigger and made people in the group feel unsafe).


I haven't blogged in an embarrassingly long while. A big part of it is that I'm metaphorically holding my breath while an agent is reading my entire manuscript, trying not to become unduly hopeful that she'll represent me, but not succeeding in that attempt. I can't help it. I may be setting myself up for a horrible letdown but I am full of excitement and joyful daydreams.

I have, however, at least succeeded in not just sitting motionless in these endeavors. I've continued to send out query letters. And as a matter of fact, I got a request for a partial (a request to read the first 50 pages) from a query letter and therefore, for a couple weeks at least, for the first time ever, had two agents simultaneously expressing interest and reviewing my writing with the possibility of representation. Unfortunately, this second agent soon wrote back on June 3:

> We were impressed by From a Queerly Different Closet: The Story of Q's
> holistic approach to the underwritten topic of growing up queer.
> However, we struggled to engage emotionally with Derek because of the
> lack of specificity in prose. For example, it was difficult to
> understand why, in middle school, Derek found boys' behavior to be
> "bad" (rather than merely displeasing or disruptive), when Derek had
> not expressed a desire to be "good" or why Derek was ostracized
> growing up without knowing how exactly he was teased in each school he
> attended. Without such basic details, it was difficult to get a sense
> of Derek's personality and essential conflict. Ultimately, this meant
> that we couldn't completely fall in love with the story.

That was such a thoughtful and personal rejection letter that I did something I never do in response to rejection letters: I wrote back!

> Hi, and thank you for the most thoughtful rejection letter I've ever
> received!
> This is the type of feedback I was hoping to get except, of course,
> accompanied by something along the lines of "please address these
> concerns and send us modified chapters" instead of "not quite right
> for our list".
> I don't suppose y'all liked what's there well enough to want to work
> with me on it to see if I could address some of these concerns? (It
> can be hard for me as the author to "see" only what is on paper
> instead of seeing through it to the story that I already know —
> especially after editing it to a smaller size).
> If not, well, thanks again for such a personal and encouraging reply.

No subsequent reply though, so onward I move, on my still-neverending quest for a lit agent.

Current Stats:

Total Queries (Story of Q): 562
Rejections: 524
Outstanding: 37
Under Consideration: 1

As Nonfiction, specifically, total queries: 373
Rejections: 343
Outstanding: 30

As Fiction, total queries: 189
Rejections: 181
Outstanding: 7
Under Consideration: 1


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
"I'm a girl, that's my gender; I'm male, that's my sex; I'm attracted to females, that's my orientation." That's the thumbnail version of me coming out, that's me doing it short 'n snappy.

And I've used "girl" fairly often in reference to myself on the genderqueer and transgender community boards on Facebook, where it's more necessary than usual to be able to refer to one's gender separately from how one references one's biological sex.

So why, you may well be wondering, do I use the word "girl" when I'm not a juvenile? I'm middle-aged. Also, I purport to be a feminist, but feminists have long since gone on record about the disparity wherein male adults get called "men" but female adults still get called "girl". "I am a woman. Do not call me a girl", they have said. So why don't I tend to say that I'm a woman? Why do I use the term "girl"?

Reason A: The Trajectory of Personal History. I think there are many people who, when they visualize transgender individuals, think in terms of how we want to live the adult sexual lives -- the EROTIC lives -- of the other gender. That that's what it's all about, that that's the main thing that we feel estranged from because of our bodies and (therefore) the gender that people assign us to. I do know that there are some transgender people who only became aware of being a different gender than the one to which they were socially assigned when they were adults, although I don't know any personally. For me, though, and for many others with some version of the overall trans identity experience, that stress on adult gendered behaviors and differences is misplaced: we knew it a lot sooner than that, and our overall identities were shaped by already thinking of ourselves as one of the gender to which we were NOT socially assigned, the other one.

In other words, I thought of myself as one of the girls when I was in elementary school. I valued what they valued; I took pride in it just as the other girls did, competed with them on certain levels, participated with them on others, cared about what they thought of me, and measured myself against them in evaluating my self-worth as a person. We were good citizens and generally did well within the system and expected to, and considered ourselves worthy of respect and graceful treatment, which we'd earned through our responsible good behavior. But if and when we did NOT get accorded that treatment, we knew it SHOULD be our due and, after all, one does not behave properly in order to receive such treatment, one behaves properly because it's the right thing to do.

Then, later, in my own particular case, well, it happened that I was attracted to female people. Which, unlike the matrix of personality and behavioral characteristics folks noticed in childhood, WAS fully expected of me on the basis of my biological sex. This complicated things: as a child, I was like the other girls in most of the ways that counted, but unlike them in biological sex; now, as I was entering adulthood, that biological difference took on new hues and meanings, and, if anything, submerged my sense of being one of them into a more convoluted and multifaceted mixture of samenesses and differences.

That complexity nearly destroyed me; I could not untangle that mess, could not separate myself as a male-bodied person attracted to females from the matrix of assumptions and beliefs about males and the meaning and "flavor" and behaviors and cues and signals of males and females in a state of attraction to each other. My samenesses got in the way and left me vulnerable to confusion and hurt; I wanted something new and different from the other girls, something other than what I'd wanted and needed from them up until then, and risked not being able to get any of it, the new OR the old types of connections.

And my understanding took the form of understanding that who I *had been*, looking back over my shoulder at my own past, was one of the girls, a male girl, now trying to negotiate the tricky currents of sexual attraction. And that understanding helped everything make sense and put me on the road to coming to terms with all of it.

Reason B: Children's Lib. Embedded in the pride of being a responsible citizen was always a rebellious refusal to accept the general designation of children as irresponsible little animals with no self-control, not fully human and not entitled to equal consideration by adults as people. Attitudes towards children may be particularly derogatory in the deep south where I grew up as a child, spiced up with a fair amount of Biblical distrust for unfettered human nature and the corresponding notion that humans are good only in the shadow of sufficient threat of punishment for the wicked. But it was a very GENDERED attitude. Boys were bad except where terrorized into being good; girls who were bad were weak and to be pitied and strong girls were good on purpose.

I never accepted the notion that adults were intrinsically better people or more important people. If there were legitimate reasons for our second-class status as children, they resided in our comparative ignorance and lack of capabilities and, IF indeed in evidence, in our immaturity and failure to behave responsibly. I did, as a child, believe the adult world was one in which the responsible folks were in charge.

That was a belief that did not survive my own passage into adulthood. Adulthood is a myth. Mostly, folks wake up one day between their junior year in high school and their 20th birthday, realize that all that wisdom and certainty that they saw adults apparently possessing is NOT going to come their way, and they stop trying to understand the world and instead focus on faking it, copying whoever seems to be doing "adult" relatively well and hoping no one realizes they're phonies. Which isn't likely because everyone else is doing the same thing. There is bodily adulthood, in the sense of puberty and associated biological changes, but "man" and "woman" are mythical creatures, notions of gendered adult selves that are too heavily invested in the notion of adulthood for me to feel comfortable identifying with.

Progress Notes, on the ongoing attempt to sell my book:

The Story of Q——total queries = 393
Rejections: 276
Outstanding: 117

As NonFiction——total queries = 332
Rejections: 263
Outstanding: 69

As Fiction——total queries = 61
Rejections: 13
Outstanding: 48

That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class——total queries = 22
Rejections: 20
Outstanding: 2


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
Continuing from More Repositioning Part One...

As I said, I started off positioning the things I wanted to say about myself and gender and sexual orientation as contributions to feminist theory. It was a good fit and except for some nuances of what to emphasize and how to formulate my descriptions, I didn't have to tuck away much of what I was inclined to say in order to position it in that way.

One potential concern with that positioning was that I — a male — was intending to participate in formulating feminist theory.

Remember that this was in 1980. My impression of feminists was that they were sick and tired of the unfairnesses that women had to tolerate in our society, and in their anger they were being quite blunt and honest in speaking out about it and about what they wanted to see changed. They wanted men to listen: as the Helen Reddy song "I am Woman" put it, "I am still an embryo with a long, long way to go until I make my brother understand". I didn't expect them to take any male's word for it that what he had to say was something they should heed; I expected a cautious and perhaps cynical wariness, but I thought my material itself would not only ring true with them but fit into their overall theory like a missing puzzle piece.

Feminists in 1980 were only just putting behind them a phase in which they'd often been hostile and condescending to women immersed in traditional roles. Like the marxist left caricaturing the wealthy, some early feminists (including, by her own later admission, Robin Morgan) had said things about wives and mothers and girlfriends and obedient subservient secretaries and cheerleaders and whatnot that they, by this point, in 1980, regretted, for being divisive instead of seeing and SAYING that all women were in this situation together. At the same time, though, they were also saying similar things about MEN not being the enemy either! The movement that had begun as a movement for women's equality now saw itself as being good for men as well because the social system based on women's oppression made for an unpleasant and oppressive and disempowering world for individual males too — even if most men couldn't seem to see that. So with that understanding already out there and on the table, I felt that I should not have to establish as a principle that feminism was something that I personally could have a stake in, and could proceed to show that I had been listening to them, understood what they'd been saying, and had something to add, a contribution not an argument against or an excuse for what they were complaining about.

But feminism never distinguished between defining itself as the movement against patriarchy and sexism and defining itself as the movement for the concerns of women. It's one thing (in my opinion) to say as an activist against patriarchy that all women are oppressed and are therefore allies and not enemies even if they don't see matters that way themselves, and another thing to decline to establish that trying to dismantle patriarchy is what you're up to, first and foremost. Feminism produced real tangible social change for women, establishing something considerably closer to parity with men, and in doing so gave more women more of a stake in the system. That (again, in my opinion) gave rise to an "identity politics" form of feminism in which the goals of feminism were loosely defined as the promotion of women's interests. One place this manifested itself was in the university environment, which is the venue I'd gone to to pursue my attempts to contribute my views to feminist theory. And by 1992 it had been made apparent to me that I could not actually contribute more than a marginal and ancillary bit of new material: at best, my role as a male "doing feminist theory" would be limited to choosing which views already espoused by feminists to chime in in agreement with. And even THEN, I would need to be careful of disagreeing with all feminists in my immediate vicinity and siding with the views of feminists whose theories I had only read in books. That may seem unduly mean-spirited of me to say it that way, as if I'm accusing feminist women of being unreasonable and unlistening, but the alternative would require THAT THE MAN IN THE ROOM TELL FEMINIST WOMEN THAT THEY'RE DOING FEMINISM WRONG. Think about it. Think about the ramifications to feminism if feminists are being asked to consider a male to be speaking with authority equal to their own on the topic of feminism itself. I never cared for "identity politics" but I had to admit that women need to be the authority within their own movement.

So this positioning wasnt going to work. I didn't know what to do INSTEAD, so it kind of derailed me for awhile.

Now I'm drawing from the theories and understandings coming out of the gay and lesbian liberation movement and that of transgendered people — queer theory, gender theory. It is a repositioning, a reframing of what I was saying before, although under the hood the ideas are still basically the same ideas.

• These are theories that say that it is not fair if different people are not treated with the equivalent or corresponding interpretation of their behavior instead of being castigated for being different; it is again a fairness issue but rather than condemning the viewing of people differently depending on their identity, it condemns an insufficiently diverse array of different responses; it starts with an identification of categorical differences officially recognized, for which different responses exist (men; women) and then demands that people in other categories (gay; lesbian; transgendered; bisexual; intersex; genderqueer; asexual; etc) be freed from the confinement to that small array and extended their own separate and equal understandings.

• It is, therefore, very much an embodiment of identity politics. Hence, I am defining myself first and foremost as a categorically DIFFERENT person, and demanding consideration for my CATEGORY. I'm a male, that's my sex; I'm a girl, that's my gender; I'm attracted to female people, that's my sexual orientation; hence I am not a man nor a woman as conventionally defined, nor am I straight or gay as conventionally defined, nor am I even transgendered as opposed to cisgendered, as THAT is traditionally defined.

• The existing body of social-political understandings towards the groups thus far identified includes most of what I want extended to my situation: that we not be regarded as pathological departures from a healthy norm, but are just as valid as healthy identities; that there are attitudes affirming and celebrating our characteristics that previously applied only to certain other groups, and we want in on that way of being thought of and viewed; and, by extension, since there's no end in sight for the length of the list, there should be a moratorium on hostile rejection of any manifestion of personality and behavior pertaining to sex and gender, NOT because we are all the same and NOT because social forces have (necessarily) created our differences, but because unless the behavior can be argued to be undesirable behavior for ANYONE to engage in, it may be a valid, sexy, pleasant, etc, configuration for someone and your own personal distaste for it as manifested in a person of this or that sex or gender or whatever is just your own personal taste.

• Just as in positioning it as feminist theory, there are things that I am basically de-emphasizing in positioning it as gender / queer theory. Feminist theory considers that there is a social force or institution in place that is embodied by the sex role socialization forces, and considers itself to be a direct and frontal challenge to that. The identity politics of gender and queer theory, at least on the superficial level, would have it that the world could continue ticking along basically intact except more fairly and pleasantly if we cease to stigmatize and ostracize and view as pathological those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, intersex, asexual, genderqueer, and so forth. I don't think that's true; I think there are indeed societal institutions and social structures that depend for their ongoing existence on the conventional categories and the shaping and stigmatizing forces that maintain them. I think, in other words, that it's a radical and fundamental change and not just a plea that people who are harmlessly different shouldn't be treated bad just because they're different.

• That should not be taken as a claim that queer and gender theorists do NOT consider themselves and their issues to involve radical change; they DO! It's more that feminism as an actual movement has been inclined to pay real attention to feminist theory, to the extent that people involved in the movement have had their own thinking informed by feminist theory; but gay lesbian bisexual trans and etc people, in my experience and in my impression, do not study queer and gender theory and integrate it into their thinking to the same degree. And perhaps because of that there is a higher percent of folks who consider themselves to be a part of what folks call the LGBTQ community or even "movement" but whose understanding or vision of social change in that sphere mostly involves more tolerance, equality, anti-discrimination laws and policies, and other aspects of inclusive fairness.


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
On Sept 3, I penned a short piece about repositioning my nonfiction memoir as a work of fiction:


In today's blog, I'm going to reminisce about a different repositioning, one that is part of my own backstory behind this book: from feminist issue to gender-identity issue.

The story starts in 1980, when I first had in my head a clear sense of wanting to confront the world and explain a thing or two about myself and gender and sexuality and all that.

Just as I currently need to "bundle" the book I've written, in order that authors' agents and publishers will perceive it as falling into a category they know about and having other similar titles they can mentally compare it to, in 1980 I recognized the need to "bundle" what I wanted to say so that it would fit in with a set of ideas that folks had some familiarity with. If you want to communicate with people, you don't want to be TOO original; people need a point of entry, a starting point they're already familiar with, and THEN, once you've established that, you can depart from there, contrasting what you're trying to say with material that your audience already comprehends.

Starting in 1980, most of my attempts to explain my material started off with feminist theory.

• Feminist theory in its most widely understood assertions says that it is not fair if the same behavior is viewed differently depending on the sex of the person; that was dead-on center to what I wanted to say about sexual behavior and associated personality, and it let me position what I was saying as a fairness issue, a POLITICAL issue, not some kind of needy emotional or mental state such as a mental pathology. That was important to me.

• Feminist theory by that point had accumulated a huge body of observations about sex role socialization that polarizes boys and girls, treating them differently in ways that CREATE differences even if they didn't already exist in that particular way, that REINFORCE them and emphasize and exaggerate them whether they did or didn't originally exist, and that also SHAPE how we interpret them so that even identical behaviors end up having different connotations to the observer. All this was also very much the territory of my ideas, so by referencing feminism I would not have to reinvent those wheels, explain all that from scratch.

• I saw myself as a male person whose personality and behavior was more akin to what was expected of female people, for which I'd gotten a lot of grief and flack over the years. My response, as a kid and as a young adult, to that grief and flack had been to stubbornly retain those characteristics and to disdain the model of masculine boyhood that I was being directed to as what I ought to be emulating instead. In choosing to position my concepts within the framework of feminism and feminist theory, I was choosing in part to DE-EMPHASIZE any personal claims to being inherently different from other boys and men, and instead placed the focus on these social forces and used my experience as a vantage point: "Behold, sex role socialization in action, trying to turn males into boys and men. Look at my experience, I'm one of the rare resisters and as such I have been the example to other males of the bad things that would happen to them, also, if they did not conform". I was trying to indict the social process.

• Right from the start, I was not only ambivalent about whether I was, in fact, different in general from other malefolk, but also aware of that ambivalence. The truth was, and still is, that I did not (and do not) know. I live in a world with other males who certainly appear to be alien and different from me, but I'm vividly aware of those social forces and processes and I can easily believe that those, all by themselves, can shape and mold male people into the configuration that I see around me, WITHOUT postulating any built-in differences between me and the majority of the rest of my sex. And indeed, sometimes I see it that way. But I also can readily believe that maybe the sexes are statistically different in ways that roughly and loosely correspond with the expectations, but that the sex role socialization forces take that situation and emphasize the polarization and shape and modify what they're going to end up meaning, both at the individual level and the broad social level. And sometimes I see it that way instead: that the factor that made ME, specifically, rebellious and stubbornly resistant to masculinization is that personality-wise I'm a statistical outlier so the expectations were a really really bad fit for me.

• My general attitude was "It doesn't matter". If I could wave a magic wand and make it so that sissy boys and butch girls were socially accepted and understood, if we could essentially have a widespread belief that there are male girls as well as male boys (just fewer of them), and female boys as well as female girls (likewise), the ugly nastiness of those social pressures would be ameliorated. And if that could happen, then that change would be wonderful whether I (and the hypothetical class of other boys like me) were intrinsically different from normative typical males or if there were no such fundamental difference.

• Similarly, and parallel to that, was the sexual orientation question. What I was seeing was a social expectation verging on coercive in its intensity that said that not ONLY were male people supposed to be a certain way in personality and behavior ("masculine") but that furthermore heterosexual eligibility was dependent on it. If, in other words, you insisted or persisted in being and behaving more like the expected female pattern, you would be THOUGHT to be gay, you would be TREATED as if you were gay, and you would not have any other real options since heterosexuality itself was so hardwired to a model of behavior in which masculine male people DID certain things (behaviors) to feminine female people that, in the absence of that personality and the behaviors associated with it, sex with female people simply wasn't gonna happen. I saw this as the ultimate and final weapon in the arsenal of sex role socialization forces. Of course, I saw it that way because I was attracted to female-bodied people.

• Gay and lesbian people, in 1980, were definitely positioning their discussion of sexual preference in terms of built-in differences. That they were oppressed AS gay and lesbian people, that it needed to be OK with the world that some folks were indeed gay and lesbian and that that wasn't pathological or undesirable or inferior. I recognized early on that I needed to NOT be saying that the only reason anyone was in fact gay or lesbian was that that was how sex role socialization disposed of the personality-and-behavior nonconforming misfits like me who didn't get sex-role socialized properly. First off, I needed to NOT be saying that for pragmatic reasons: I was trying to liberate myself and people like me from sex role socialization forces, not attack other people and tell them they were doing things all wrong, and gay and lesbian people very obviously weren't perceiving their sexual orientation as "something society did to us". Secondly, and more importantly once it sank in good, was that I sure as hell didn't KNOW that to be the case. All I knew from first-hand experience was that social forces felt to me like they were trying to cast ME as gay for failing to fit the masculine mold; I realized that gay and lesbian people were saying they were ATTRACTED to the same sex, not that they'd been driven in that direction, and quite commonly said that they'd known it even as children, had always been that way. I had no business, therefore, proceeding as if I knew their situation better than they did. AGAIN, my attitude quickly reconciled as "it doesn't matter". If there are indeed built-in differences in sexual orientation between hetero and gay folk, it absolutely cannot hurt any of us if the world ceases to assume you are hetero if your personality and behavior fits the expected norms for your sex and that you are gay/lesbian if you have a disproportionate amount of those expected in the other sex instead.

• For myself, with regards to my OWN sexual orientation as built-in or otherwise, I again tended to look at it two different ways and shifted between the two depending on how I thought about the gender difference: when I tended to think of myself as not intrinsically different from other males, I also thought of my sexual orientation as not being different intrinsically: nope, "heterosexuality" is a socially constructed and socially maintained set of rules, all part & parcel of the sex role socialization phenomenon; lift that out of the way and yeah, I'm attracted to female-bodied people, as are most males, and were it not for the social forces and etc I'd have no issues or problems here. But at the other times, when I'd find myself thinking of myself as truly different from other males in general, I'd also think of my sexual orientation as a different thing: heterosexuality is where MASCULINE males are sexually involved with FEMININE females, and I'm in the inverse situation and should perhaps be seeking out females who are as much a misfit as I am, not merely because they'd have more sympathy for the complexities of my situation but because our inverse behavioral patterns would link up in a reversal-of-expectations pattern. Straightbackwards instead of straightforwards. Not hetersexual, something else, something as different as my gender identity. But once again, as far as positioning of what I was trying to say to people, I chose to de-emphasize the latter. If I could wave that magic wand and make a world where folks didn't associate sexual orientation with conformity versus nonconformity to expected sexrole-specific personality and behavior in general, people like me would find partners. So it didn't matter.

Next Up: More Repositioning Part II, the shift to Gender and Queer Theory


Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
As I mention in my query letter (see previous post), my first attempt to come out to people got me locked up in the nuthouse. That was mostly just miscommunication: I'd done such a piss-poor job of putting things into words that personnel at the university thought I was either threatening folks or coming unraveled. So with that as a baseline, any future attempts to explain this mess were likely to be an improvement.

But (you may well be wondering), why was I bothering to explain myself to other people in the first place? That's a fair enough question. The thing is, for the first two decades of my life, it was not me who was making a big deal about me being a girl, or being girl-like, or not appropriately boy-like. And it was not me who was making a big deal about who I wanted to have sex with. Nope, I was getting an earful on those subjects, some of it very hostile and some of it liberally tolerant, and nearly all of it based on assumptions that didn't link up very closely with how I felt inside.

So when I figured myself out in 1980, I was all full of enthusiasm and relief and joy as well as more than a little righteous anger, because understanding myself also meant understanding the prejudices and expectations that I'd been up against all that time.

My first serious attempt to get something in writing and out there where it could be read was in 1982. I had a short book that was a combination of personal experiences and my own brand of gender and feminist theory and tried to find a publisher, but got nowhere with it.

After a couple of years, I got the idea of going back to college and majoring in women's studies, where this kind of thing would fit right in as relevant subject matter, and where my professors would maybe be interested in what I was trying to say. I did well as an undergraduate this time around, getting my BA in women's studies in 3 years, but the materials we studied in class were more at the introductory level and it wasn't really appropriate for me to make the classroom experience about me; as for my professors, they were supportive and wrote warmly encouraging comments on my papers and suggested that I go on to graduate school to pursue my interests, but they didn't exactly take up my cause as their own or anything.

Grad school didn't go as smoothly. I went into the Sociology department as a self-labeled radical feminist theorist, still seething with my own ideas and wanting to use theory and academia as my platform (aha! I'm using the word myself now!). I expected some caution and some friction from feminist women, and I expected the mainstream Sociology department to be somewhat resistant to a student espousing radical feminist perspectives, but I thought I'd prevail. I didn't. I was still looking for someone to care about my experiences and help me express them, and instead graduate school was more about professionalizing us and getting us to follow in the academic footsteps of our faculty advisors.

I did, however, finally get into print with my central ideas, in an academic journal article, "Same Door, Different Closet: A Heterosexual Sissy's Coming-out Party", printed in 1992. Not long after that, though, I ran out of funding and had burned too many bridges; I had to find a job and didn't have a good working relationship with anyone on faculty, so I never finished up.

I haven't done much with the idea of explaining this material to the world since then, until this new book.


Index of all Blog Posts


ahunter3: (Default)

September 2017

3 456789
10 111213141516
17 181920212223

Most Popular Tags


RSS Atom

Style Credit

Page generated Sep. 24th, 2017 03:04 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios