Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
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.




ANONYMOUS CONVERSATION III

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)
This was something new, a phenomenon for which there was no name.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

————————

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)
Back in April, I showed up for my annual appointment with the tax consultant and slid in across the table from him and exchanged pleasantries. Provided the usual clump of documents and expenditure summaries on cue. Towards the end of our session, I said to him, "Hey, I'm going to have a book published later this year. I'll be doing promotional activities, and there's also a publicist... anyway, I've been doing related speaking engagements for awhile now, can those be included on next year's taxes as an expense even if they predate 2017?"

And he said, "Oh, congratulations! What's it about?"

Not long after that, I was chatting with my primary client (I'm a database developer) and explaining that I might be taking time off, two days here and three days there, on fairly short notice over the next year because I was trying to get some speaking engagements to promote my book, and the conversation quickly swung around to the same question.

In neither case had I specifically planned to explain to these individuals about being genderqueer, what genderqueer means in the first place, or why I thought it was important to tell the world all about it.

In fact, my attitude towards these folks was remarkably similar to the attitude that many folks -- the ones most inclined to say things like "I don't see why you need to bring up all that personal stuff, can't we all just be people together, can't you rejoice in your own unique individual identity instead of needing to label yourself" -- tend to recommend to me. I was figuring that neither my tax accountant nor my database client had any particular reason to know or to care about my gender identity, and frankly whatever gender assumptions they made based on my visual appearance as a male-bodied person were not of any particular concern or interest to me either.

I'm also a singer in the local community choir. I sing baritone. The other choristers there are a fairly conventional sampling of suburbanites from a Republican-majority county, mostly upper-middle-aged and beyond retired professionals. I don't always feel as if I completely fit in there but they make friendly overtures and make me feel welcome and I enjoy participating; I've never deliberately done things that would trigger confusion or "alien in our midst" responses there; it was, once again, an environment where I didn't quite feel driven to express and explain my gender identity, although it was a more personal activity than my business dealings with the tax consultant or my database client.

Well, last year around this time, someone in Manhattan organized a performance of Beethoven's 9th symphony and requested volunter singers for the choral movement with the proceeds to go to the victims' families down in Orlando in the wake of the shootings. So I attended and showed up attired in a situationally-appropriate skirt. During rehearsal, one of the tenors from our community choir hailed me and said it was good to see someone else from our choir there, then glanced down and added, "Umm, is that a kilt?"


To be honest, I don't always handle it well. Unrehearsed and uncontemplated outings are awkward. I feel a mixture of enthusiasm for explaining the topic to anyone genuinely interested, reticent wariness about giving someone a five-minute overview lecture in reaction to passing comment, and annoyance that I can't just blithely toss off a three-or-four word phrase and rely on it to explain as much as needs explaining. Or think I can't.

I do wish for a world where this isn't necessary. It's not something I greatly enjoy doing. Despite what seems to some folks to be an appearance to the contrary, I don't actually get off on perpetually explaining to folks what a peculiarly variant individual I am. Dating back to when I was an elementary school student, I've just wanted to be understood for who and what I am -- a coarse approximation would do -- instead of correcting badly wrong misapprehensions or coping with that special flavor of perplexed curiosity that makes one feel like a pale-bodied multi-legged bug someone just discovered upon overturning a rock.


I have described myself previously as an outlier -- an exception to the general rule, not uniquely so but among the minority who comprise such exceptions. That's the limit of reasonable expectations of normalization, I think, and I'm OK with that: that folks would often find me odd and unusual, but would recognize a term for that specific oddity when it was offered as explanation, and would nod and say "Oh, OK". Some term that is short and pithy instead of paragraphs of explanation. So, yes, a box to put myself in.

Boxes aren't intrinsically bad horrible things that take away folks' freedom and confine them and strip them of their individuality. Especially not when self-chosen. They can be quite cozy and comfortable and protective. They can limit the sense of being out in the open and full exposed. And it's not just us peculiar minority folks who rely on them. I bet most people don't do their best sleeping out in the unenclosed fields! Don't begrudge me my box.

————————

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)
June is Pride Month!

So, in one of the LGBTQIA-centric Facebook groups I participate in, someone posted a link to a pride month calendar -- similar to this one -- and because it was June 2 at the time, said "Happy Lesbian Pride Day".

It wasn't terribly long before someone said in reply, "Why do we have to have all these separate days for specific categories of people? That's silly! Pride Month should be about us coming together as a community and it should focus on our solidarity and diversity and how coming together empowers us. It shouldn't be about dividing up the calendar so each little unique identity gets its own separate day!"

That, of course, is practically an echo of what mainstream straight folks often say about us, our activism, and Pride Marches and Pride Month altogether: "Can't you just be a person, can't we all just be people together, can't you rejoice in your own unique individual identity instead of needing to label yourself and making a big deal about your labeled difference? Why does everyone have to be doing identity politics, anyway, it's so divisive!"

And of course, the moment I point out that this kind of comment IS, in fact, reminiscent of what mainstream straight people say about Pride and etc in general, there's going to be some people, like those white well-dressed gay guys over there, see them? They're wincing because they're expecting me to say "Check your privilege" and start comparing them to cisgender white males or something. And to say that the less socially visible parts of the LGBTQIA spectrum, like intersex people and genderqueer people (and definitely nontransitioning gender inverts like me), benefit from a little special attention if our identity is prominently noted on one of those calendar days (my specific one isn't, by the way). Which I am (or, rather, I just did).

But relax, be at ease. I'm not winding up to blast anyone for not being sufficiently oppressed and marginalized enough to get off the blame-hook as being part of the problem, or to accuse anyone of keeping us more-marginalized types from escaping our silence and darkness.

I'm not choosing sides between those two positions so much as I'm putting them both out there so we can look at the sensible good points that exist in each of them.

Let's start with Gay Rights. Think about this: the people seeking gay rights basically wanted to be mainstreamed. They were tired of gay people being targeted for different treatment. They wanted to be accepted as the nice guys next door, get married if they wanted to just like anyone else can, teach in your schools and sing in your church choir and go on dates to the local movie theatre and NOT stand out as different.

But because it wasn't already like that, they had to draw attention to what they were being put through. "Look, this is how it is for us", they said. And they challenged negative perceptions of gay people, things that folks said and believed about gay people that were used as justifications for not treating them as people like any other people. "Hey, over here, look at me, I am one of the people you described that way and it isn't true. Don't be hating on me, I'm not so different from you!"

Thus, in order to make progress towards the goal of being mainstreamed and being accepted and treated as people like any other people, it was necessary to talk about the categorical difference and make a social issue of how people in that category were subjected to different treatment.

Lesbians, at some point, became vocal about not feeling very recognized or included in gay rights. "Everyone pretends like on the one hand it doesn't matter what women do with each other anyway, and on the other hand to whatever extent women-identified women are subjected to discrimination and hostility and unfair treatment, hey, getting gay rights for all gay people will fix stuff up for us too. But we have our own experiences, our own specific concerns that aren't a carbon copy of the concerns of gay males, and we're tired of being erased and ignored. We need to be included in making policy and setting goals and having our experiences described and respected too!".

So after awhile, this sunk in enough that the specifically inclusive phrase "gay and lesbian" became common.

Fast-foward by a couple decades, and we've got this ever-expanding acronym and a Pride Month calendar that's soon going to need more than one months' worth of days. The specifics aren't uninteresting or unimportant, but at the moment I want to stress the recurrent common pattern: some marginalized people came together to speak collectively about the barriers to being accepted and understood as ordinary people, and then, within that community, a subset of the participants felt that they needed to point out who they were and what they were being put through before they could really feel like this was THEIR movement and that it was giving THEM a voice, because otherwise the movement wasn't all that much about them and people like them. And then another subset followed their lead and did likewise.

If you were a bird, and you wanted to fly, you would need to beat your wings. And beating your wings means some of the time you are lowering your wings, while at other moments you are raising them upwards. It takes both motions to accomplish the beat.

We need a sense of connection, community, solidarity. We want shared identity, the sense of having an identity-in-common that bridges differences, the rejoicing of coming together in peace and joy. That's the upbeat.

We need the separate experience of our unique situations to be understood and validated. We want to be heard, to have any collective understanding include us and our individual viewpoints. We need to challenge any uniform aggregate sense of "us" that leaves our individuality excluded and our specific vantage point unseen and unheard. That's the downbeat.


Let's fly.


————————

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)
Many folks in the transgender community speak or write about having a sort of schematic diagram in the brain, one that told them that despite the morphological body they were born with, they were SUPPOSED to have a different sex of parts. Trans feminist author Julia Serano (Whipping Girl) is one good example.

Note that no reference is being made to the complex bucket of personality attributes, priorities, behaviors and behavioral nuances, tastes, expressions, or any of the rest of the nonphysical characteristics that tend to be thought of as part of gender.

In fact, if we agree that gender and sex are not one and the same, this phenomenon isn't even about gender. And it isn't about society, or, if it is, it is limited to wanting to be perceived as the correct sex based on how one is able to present when visiting the nude beach. Or in one's bedroom, to one's partner.

I don't have that. I have never felt anything akin to a wiring diagram in my brain that insisted I was supposed to have female parts. That experience is utterly foreign to me.



I think most folks, when they think of transgender people, picture someone like Caitlin Jenner or Chaz Bono, someone who was born one sex but who at some point came to realize they were trans, and they began dressing and presenting as that other sex and they obtained sexual reassignment surgery and hormonal treatments, and now they dress as and behave as the new sex to which they transitioned.

It is not unreasonable for them to do so. The various online and in-person transgender communities and support groups not only contain many such people, they also tend to be places where the people in attendance also think of transgender people in those terms.

But let's backtrack to the schematic-diagram thing. Let's split apart some concepts. Picture someone totally masculine in all the traditional ways, and attracted to feminine women, an extremely conventional kind of guy. Except that Joan isn't a guy. Joan says this male body is just wrong. It has the wrong parts. So she is transitioning to female, at which point she will be a very masculine person with conventionally male interests, but female, and she will live her life as a lesbian.

I haven't met Joan (she's a hypothetical person) but I've described her and had people reassure me that there are indeed such people.

Joan might have a difficult time explaining her situation to the support group. People in the support group often conflate gender and sex as much as mainstream people out on the sidewalk. People describe themselves as children and say things like "I always knew I was female" There's a reason for this: medical interventions for transgender people are expensive, and some people are not convinced of the merits of what medical science is able to do for them. And the transgender community surely does not want to reject people who are planning to transition but haven't the resources to do so yet, or to make such people feel relegated to second-class trans citizens. Besides that, there's an understandable resentment at being treated like sideshow spectacles and asked to lower their pants, verbally or literally, and show folks the merchandise.

But Joan would be facing special barriers in addition to the ones that trans people in general face. Dealing with the gatekeeper-doctors, no picnic for any trans person trying to get cleared for medical treatments, would be a nightmare. (They tend to want all male-to-female transitioners to be utter Barbie dolls and they are inclined to question the psychological readiness of any transitioner who seems to still express the traits of their birth-sex). It might be difficult for Joan to explain her situation to the group as something a bit different from the hassles experienced by other transitioning women.

And think about the current "transgender people in bathrooms" issue. Joan's experience of that is going to be markedly different from that of trans people who adopt and embrace a lot of signature items to convey their target identity. A post-transition Joan would face the same hostilities and challenges as any other extremely butch dyke. How does she explain to other trans women how her issues are not entirely identical to their own?

Intersex people also find it frustrating sometimes to discuss gender and body. "What's inside my underwear does *NOT* define my gender", asserts an intersex friend and ally whom I met on the boards. He isn't opposed to trans people being able to get the surgeries that they seek, but often finds the trans community oblivious and unaware of how unwanted surgeries imposed on intersex people without their consent are regarded by intersex people. "I am a man. That is my gender. A medical doctor decided I should be female and wanted to remove offending parts of me to produce a female. I am not a freak show and I don't have to display my genital configuration in order to prove my gender."

I identify as a gender invert, myself. I tell people I'm a girl, or woman. What makes me a gender invert is that my body is male. What's within my clothing doesn't define my gender either. On the other hand, neither is it wrong and in need of fixing. Just like my intersex friend, I have no wish to modify my morphology to fit other people's notions of what bodyparts ought to accompany my gender identity.

You'd perhaps think, with so many of us on the same page as far as "what I have between my legs is not the same thing as my gender", that we'd see eye to eye on how to talk about these things in ways that don't insult or negate each other's experience. I suppose trying to insist that "sex", and the sex terms "male" and "female", ought to be reserved for physical body and that "gender", and gender identity terms such as "man" and "woman" and "boy" and "girl" and so forth, apply to the other, nonphysiological, factors, isn't going to get me anywhere. Not with so many in the transgender community using the terms differently.

It would make things easier if that "schematic diagram" thing inside the head had its own term. Julia Serano uses the term "subconscious sex".

Perhaps the best way to describe how my subconscious sex feels to me is to say that it seems as if, on some level, my brain expects my body to be female...

I am sure that some people will object to me referring to this aspect of my person as a subconscious "sex" rather than "gender.". I prefer "sex" because I have experienced it as being rather exclusively about my physical sex, and because for me this subconscious desire to be female has existed independently of the social phenomena commonly associated with the word "gender".


— Julia Serano, Whipping Girl pgs 80, 82

If we could go with that extra terminology, transgender people could express that (for example) their subconscious sex identity is female, their born sex was male, their gender is girl or woman. My intersex colleague could say he is a man, that doctors wanted to perform unwanted surgery because he was born intersex and they wanted to make him biologically female. And I could say I am a girl or woman whose biological sex is male.


————————

Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
I finally had an opportunity to present my talk to an LGBT organization on February 23!

I gave what was essentially the same lecture I previously presented at LIFE in Nassau, Baltimore Playhouse, and EPIC, although revamped and tailored quite a bit for the different audience. The group was the "20-somethings" group that meets at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan. Their meetings have usually been social without formal programming but lately they've moved towards booking some content to stimulate discussion, and I was one of their first guests.

It represents a favorable turnaround in outcomes for me from my efforts of 16 months ago when I was politely turned down by the folks at the Nassau County GLBT organization. I blogged about that at the time: Eye Opener

I had also approached Identity House, a direct affiliate of the Community Center where I presented last Thursday, and they had expressed no more interest or encouragement than the Nassau County group.

The main factor that seems to have shifted the outcome in my favor this time was my publicist, John Sherman. Firstly, because I think it's just a lot more effective when you have someone else touting your qualifications than when you're doing self-promotion. Secondly, because he's a professional, it's what he does for a living and he's good at it. He conveyed to them what I did not successfully manage to do, that I had content that was different and relevant and that I was qualified to do such a presentation and would be good at it.

To recap, here's how I ended up with a publicist: I had been playing with the idea that I should get a publicist because many literary agents, in the process of turning down my book, said my writing was good but that I had no "platform", no already-established reputation as a theorist or speaker or activist in the field that would cause people to think I had qualifications to write such a book. But it remained just a notion that I thought about sometimes. Then Ellora's Cave indicated that they wanted to publish me. Ellora's Cave would get my book into print but they were a small press and were not equipped to publicize their authors, so that would be my responsibility. So I retained the services of John Sherman Associates. Then Ellora's Cave went out of business and I no longer had a forthcoming book but I had a publicist. It did occur to me to see if I could negotiate a change of contract with him, but given my prior notion of having a publicist to help me get more exposure, I decided to just go with it, and I'm glad that I did.

It went well. I led off with an intro of myself as a person who had come out as genderqueer in 1980, then quipped that I knew there were people who missed the days when the acronym, "LGBT", had still been short enough to fit on a t shirt, and identified myself as one of the culprits responsible for adding extra letters and making it more complicated.

I talked about how I had not taken it for granted, and still don't, really, that folks in the LGBT community would welcome me and consider me to belong there. I'm a male-bodied person, I present as male, and I am attracted to female-bodied people. Certainly in the early 1980s I had not had a lot of confidence that gay and lesbian people would think of me as other than a straight interloper or a confused individual or a repressed gay guy lurking but not really out yet or something. But that nevertheless I had been welcomed warmly, if not immediately understood. The prevailing attitude had been "if you think this is where you belong, you belong here".

Indeed, I don't identify as straight. STRAIGHT, by definition, means that one is normative, that one has the default identity. Straight people do not need to come out. I found it necessary to come out. Ergo, not straight.

Heterosexuality is gendered. Not merely sexed (such that it concerns male-bodied people getting it on, or having an interest in getting it on, with female-bodied people and vice versa), but gendered. This wasn't a distinction blatantly obvious to me any more than to anyone else, but gradually as I grew into early adulthood I saw the pattern. It is most discernably manifest in the advice generally given to boys and young men who complain of no success in dating and finding a girlfriend — that they should be pushier, act more confident; that they should be sure not to display feminine traits, because feminine males get treated like friends instead of potential bedmates; that nice guys get left out because they didn't try anything; that the sexually successful guys are the ones who ask the girls, who take the initiative to make things happen.

In other words, the male and the female in heterosexuality play different roles, and are expected to, and not just roles in the sense of behavior but as expressions of specific personality traits — aggressively confident and sexually forward for the male, and reactive and sexually reticent for the female.

It was the realization that who I was as a person clashed rather badly with the profile of personality traits meshed into the male role for heterosexuality that made me aware of being different in a significant way. If it weren't for that, I would have probably thought of myself as a more or less ordinary guy who happened to be more like girls in various ways, but still fundamentally a guy, not someone with a different gender identity.

I had an audience of about 25 people, a fairly diverse mix. They listened attentively and very quietly and I held their focus easily. I didn't get a lot of official questions at the end, just a few, but people came up to me afterwards both there as we milled around afterwards and at Stonewall Inn where we adjourned to hang out for awhile. In general they said they embraced the larger inclusive group identity as LGBTQ but mostly they knew about lesbian and gay experiences, a bit about bisexual and mainstream transgender issues, but had known virtually nothing about what being genderqueer was like or what the relevant social concerns were, and they felt that they had learned a lot from my presentation.

————————

Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
"So", says a friend of mine who has a FetLife account, "I gather that there are specific different sexual activities that are part of what you call being a gender invert. Yeah, I know there's probably more to your gender identity thing than how you like to get it on, but essentially you're saying you want to be the girl and your female partner be the boy, right? So how is that different from female dominant and male submissive play in the kink world? Because that's out there. You can find that for sure."

Good question. I have in fact approached it from that angle. Be kind of silly not to.

I don't consider my gender identity to be a sexual perversion, and like many other people in the LGBTQ world I have resented any inclination to treat my difference as a sickness, deviance, depravity, a twisted distortion of natural sexual and gender expression, you know?

But the kink world is inhabited by people whose attitude is generally "Oh, they call you a pervert? Well, welcome, we're all perverts in here, you can't freak us out and we're tolerant about everything as long as it's consensual. And we like to talk about it and learn stuff from each other". So, again like many other people in the LGBTQ categories, I have found the kink world to be a warmer and better listening social space than society at large tends to be.

So, yes. Fetlife has Groups, much like Facebook does, and in the group titled GenderQueer I created a thread titled "YOU be the boy and let ME be the girl..." and wrote up a description and asked who else considered their genderqueerness to include or consist of that. Didn't get many responses but it may have been a victim of bad timing (I posted it during the holidays). FetLife also has lists of Fetishes which are more like interests you can associate your profile with rather than groups you join, and I may try listing this as a Fetish.

I am surprised that it isn't more openly and commonly embraced as a specific kink, sure enough. That, specifically that: female people who want to be the boy and male people who want to be the girl, connecting for that purpose.

But oh yes there are indeed fem doms available for liaisons with subby males and whoo boy is there ever a market for them! I have a partner I've been involved with for seven years who identifies as a switch (meaning she can relate to people as either a dominant or as a submissive), as do I. She also has a FetLife account. The correspondence she tends to get the most of is a never-ending series of males asking if she will top them for a play session or two, or would be open to taking them on as a submissive. Even guys who list themselves as dominants have written to say that they want to experience subbing to a dominant woman!




Eventually one wonders if we mean the same things when we throw terms and phrases out there. We don't always. I've found that people misconstrue me both within and outside the various specialized communities of kink and LGBTQ people, and I've enthusiastically jumped into groups and conversations only to find out that I've misconstrued what others meant, as well.

A straight (non-LGBTQ / non-kink) message board I'm a regular on is popular enough to have a shadow board or two where people post to make fun of some of the more pretentious posters and sillier posts on the main board. Being a pretentiously self-important type myself, I sometimes get targeted. When I once posted that my partner tops me, and that her topping me is a specific characteristic of our relationship, some folks on a shadow board said they needed brain bleach and said it was more information than they wanted to know. Reading on, and reading between the lines a bit, I finally realized they probably thought she was donning a strap-on and having anal sex with me. In other words, that that's what topping meant to them, being the penetrator.

People in the audience of a discussion I was leading asked questions about posture and back problems that eventually led me to realize they assumed that in any such relationship the woman was always on top, straddling him. That does make a certain amount of sense, topping meaning to be on top, I suppose. And implicit within that, that to be on top is to dominate and control the sexual experience.

Back in 1991-1992, when my academic journal article "Same Door Different Closet" was being peer-reviewed prior to publication, one of the reviewers asked me to be more explicit within the article about whether I was suggesting that such relationships would never involve penis-in-vagina sex, apparently under the Dworkinesque assumption that PIV sex is incompatible with anything but male dominance.

The kink community has Groups and Fetish interests with "sissy" in the title, and since one of my many forays into self-labeling was to call myself a sissy and to speak of sissyhood, I dove in and got into conversations with the sissy males of the fetish community. What I found was that most of the participants get an emotional and erotic charge from being feminized by their fem dom mistresses. "She made me wear panties to the office and when I got home she made me wear a frilly French maid apron and skirt, it was SO hotttt!" For most of them there is a distinct erotic element of humiliation. Some of the humiliation comes from being feminized as a startling violation of their normative male persona, being made to wear feminine apparel. Some comes from the power difference associated with the gender difference: she humiliates him by making him her bitch, underlining his demotion in power and her dominance of him by placing him in a girl position.

The kink community also has the generic D/s relationship in which the dominant happens to be female, and the submissive, male; and as I said before, there's sort of a waiting list for males who wish to sub, a lot of demand for female doms. What is eroticized here, as with the more common male dom / female sub relationship, is the power imbalance, of controlling or being controlled, and also of serving or of being served. The BDSM community has an intensified version of that as well, the master-slave relationship. Although all of this takes place in the larger context of consensual arrangements and consensual play between competent adult people, what is being played WITH is the erotic possibilities of power inequality, of one person taking license to do unto another and the other person being done unto.

All of these varying interpretations of gender inversion have left me repeating my usual refrain: "that's not it; that's still not it".

What I seek from "YOU be the boy and let ME be the girl" isn't humiliation or the shock of sudden power-relationship inversion, and it isn't the eroticization of atypical power imbalance either. I have always been, and am always, a girlish person and I don't find it in any shape way fashion or form LESS THAN. I'm proud of it. I respect girls and women and don't consider THEM lesser, quite the contrary. I am mostly a very egalitarian person, and ponderously serious about it for the most part. Power between the sexes is complicated and multifaceted, but when I contemplate being with female people and I wish for equality, the form that that wish takes is most centrally the wish that I not be deprived of the powers and privileges that female people have, both within sexual liaisons and within relationships, and during initial courting and flirting and negotiations for any and all of that to occur. There are other powers that the male person generally tends to have in all of these contexts, so don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the female role is the one in which all power is secretly vested despite all myths to the contrary. What I will say is that the specific set that DO generally get vested in and as part of the female role are the ones most appealing to me, and which fit my personality.

As I said in passing, I identify in the kink world as a switch. Similarly, in the universe of courting and dating and flirting and coupling and conducting an ongoing relationship, I do not require that I get to be "the girl", I'm willing to do egalitarian arrangements in which we take turns, or conduct ourselves as "two girls involved with each other". What I don't want to be is "the boy" in any of those scenarios.


"You can't seduce the willing; that's why women with the inclination to do what you're talking about don't pursue men to do it with", say some. "I understand what you want, but I don't see how you're going to find people to chase you by running away from them", say others.

The kink-world appears to be an exceptional preserve, a land of explicit negotiations where atypical is, by definition, normative, and where anything (at least anything ultimately consensual) goes. But while there is a plentitude of male people identifying as submissives (many of them adorned with collars and others aspiring to being collared), there is a dearth of sightings of male submissives being pounced upon by sexually aggressive female dominants.

When males in the kink world indicate that they are feminines or embrace a girl role, they seldom mean that they view themselves as more invested in the desire to form an ongoing relationship than in immediate eroticism. They seldom mean that their interaction with interested women (and/or female people otherwise gendered) is primarily reactive and responsive to expressions of interest by the other party — hence the constant mating calls of "do me" submissive males offering themselves hopefully to female dominants. They do not typically consider themselves in any way less the origin of carnality and explicit sexual desires than those they expect to become involved with, hence their often extremely specific requests for what activities they hope to experience ("you use a whip on me and make me beg... you sit on a chair and make me lick you until you come...you step on me with high heels and grind the heel points into me and call me pathetic", etc etc).

As my beforementioned partner has often written back or said to subby guys at parties, "I'm the dom. It's not about what YOU want if I'm the dom. I get to decide what I want to do to you."


In the long run, too much of what I'm about and what I'm after in life as a gender invert doesn't easily detach, as an isolated erotic activity, from my desire to be understood as this sort of person who is like this 24 x 7 and not just in the dungeon or between the bedroom sheets. That still doesn't rule out the kink community or its events as opportunities to meet relevant people, but the kinky world is still pretty gender-typical and its definition of what is sex and what is erotic is drawn mostly from conventional male-sexuality notions of sex, and it's not quite a refuge for the gender inverted.

————————

Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
In my Jan 16 blog-entry ("The Limits of Radical Androgyny") I promised to cycle back to an interesting subset of people in society, the folks who dissent from what we gender activists say — but not for the usual reasons. Instead, these are the ones who say that of course gender variance should be socially acceptable, but they claim that they don't see any sign that it isn't now or hasn't been so, and that we make mountains out of molehills, that there's just no social problem there to speak of.

Oh, if you give examples, they may concede that there some background attitude that we have to contend with, but they'll say it's no worse than, say, the pressure on people to be right-handed. Easy to ignore.

I'll have to admit I've often found such folks frustrating to deal with. What's up with these infuriating people, who say that the social forces we've struggled against all our lives are no big deal? In contrast, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the mindset of the conservative gender-orthodox, the unapologetic prescriptivists with all their fears of horrible things happening if we don't maintain and shore up gender norms and keep men men and women women and so on.

Well, after listening to some of the dismissive people over the course of 35 years of gender activism, I think I've noticed some patterns that may help to explain them a bit, although, as ever, these are reductive generalizations that may not apply to everyone.


PATTERN ONE: Defensive Denial

I've never been in the military and have not spent much time being shot at, but I am told that if you are part of a combat detail and have to attain some objective while people are shooting at you, the best thing to do is to tune it out as best you can and do whatever tasks you have to do with your full attention on them.

In graduate school, my friend Vivian spoke once about crossing a dark campus parking lot at night and how no one ever bothers her the way many female students reported being accosted and harassed. She doesn't move the way a person moves when they are wary and worried about something happening; she moves with complete self-assured confidence, a middle-aged butch lesbian that nobody is going to mess with. Of course, being a middle-aged butch lesbian is no guarantee against unwanted creepy attention in a parking lot, but because her image of herself is so thoroughly that of a no-nonsense person who would not tolerate such things, she broadcasts that self-image, it is manifest in the way she walks, the way she looks at people, the way she holds bags and car keys and so on.

I've deployed a similar technique in a different setting myself, especially in my younger and more volatile days. I would be determined to sit across from some damn school official or organizational bureaucrat and have a conversation, and I discovered fairly early on that if I presented myself to the receptionist and waited to be given permission to go on back, I'd be waiting a long time or would be told that the person in question was not willing or interested in meeting with me. But if I strode past as if I worked there myself and was very busy with whatever mission-task occupied my attention, that would often work to get me past the gatekeeper and would nearly always suffice once I was in the corridors I didn't properly belong in. There is a lot of authority conveyed simply by acting like you know what you're doing and that you belong where you're at.

This is all defensive denial, in various forms. The tricky part can be remaining aware on a detached intellectual level that the risk really does exist, but without dwelling on it and becoming functionally aware of it.

Gender socialization pressures are abstract and complex, and for all of us they are a constant unmitigated backdrop. Defensive denial, which is a great coping mechanism especially for anyone who is somewhat gender-atypical, can become an unconscious habit that I think some people engage in without any awareness, a sort of second-tier defensive denial in which it erases its own tracks from the mind.


PATTERN TWO: Signal Lost Amidst the Noise

If you step out your front door tomorrow morning and find yourself face to face with a grizzly bear, you may make a number of pertinent observations in the first couple moments, but none of them is likely to be the bear's sex.

That's a facile example, in large part because we aren't sexually turned on by bears. Well most of us aren't. At least not actual genuine non-human ursine bears at any rate. We take notice of each other's sex and make a big deal of it in our heads, generally speaking, because sexuality and sexual attraction is a big deal to us, and, for most people's sexuality, the sex of other people is a highly relevant consideration.

But to a less extreme degree, a person who tends to tick off other people's awareness of oddity and atypicality in assorted other ways may have an effect on them where they don't notice or care that that person is also gender atypical. There are many patterns of expected behavior, especially socially interactive behavior, and one interesting effect of being in violation of one or more of those expected patterns is that observers, having already seen and assessed the individual as peculiar in this way and perhaps that other way, take less notice of yet more departures from normative patterns. Or they conflate them into their mental impression of that person's already-perceived oddities.

A person from a foreign culture that isn't often encountered in some environment is seen as foreign and exotic; if that person is also exhibiting atypical gender behavior, the atypical gender behavior is often perceived as part of that person's foreign exotic ways and not as a phenomenon unto itself.

So such a person — a person who is experienced by others as atypical in a variety of other ways — may indeed not experience much social pressure about conforming to gender norms.


PATTERN THREE: Obsequious Denial

Some people who cave to social pressures to be a certain way pretend to themselves and to others that they have not, in fact, allowed social pressures dictate to them how they should be, and then deny that the social pressures amount to much of anything, since by denying the latter they can more easily deny the former as well.

This is also a pattern I've seen from time to time. A resident of the Bible Belt attends church despite having been an agnostic before moving there, and denies having been made to feel that they won't be accepted among their work colleagues and that the neighbor's kids won't be allowed to socialize with his children. He has some reason or rationale for why he has decided to go to church on Sundays, but it isn't social pressure, nope, haven't experienced any of that down here, really. I could stay at home and work on my lawn or watch TV, nothing to prevent me from doing so, I just decided it's kind of peaceful to get away from my daily routine and the stained glass windows are pretty...

When it comes to gender variance, the people I've seen evincing this behavior are most often folks who aren't very far-flung from the official gender norm for their sex, just variant enough that they may have to conform a bit more than they wish to in order to be spared the remarks and glances and other reactions that gender-variant behavior tends to elicit.

————————

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)
On July 29, I received my manuscript back from my editor at Ellora's Cave, Susan Edwards, containing her modifications and comments. As I indicated previously, I had a good feeling from a phone conversation and a handful of email exchanges with her, so I wasn't anticipating anything really horrible. Still, I wasn't sure what to expect. Would she want me to get rid of entire subplots she thought were superfluous, or insert a half-dozen scenes to develop some character more fully?

But no, she has a light but thorough touch, diving in to every single paragraph with superficial edits that make it easier to read, but without leaving me feeling like my "voice" has been altered and definitely not like even the smallest thread of the story-line has been affected.

Have you ever worked with an editor using Microsoft Word? Like many word processors, it has a built-in "track changes" feature. In Word, this takes the form of colored balloons in the margin identifying who made what changes where, and if anything is deleted it diplays the deleted text.


I detest working in Word, generally speaking; I've rarely hated a piece of software as thoroughly as I hate Word, and it's at its worst in a huge document such as my book, roughly 97,000 words and 175 single-spaced pages. You click in a paragraph to place your cursor and nothing happens for anywhere between 20 seconds and 2 minutes, then it puts the damn blinking bar in the wrong place; you type to add two words and nothing happens for 40 seconds, then when it does it omitted the first two characters that you typed, or you find that you made typos which you could not see at the time because it wasn't keeping up with your typing. You'd think a word processor running on an 8-core CPU with 16 gigs of RAM would do better than that, and you'd be right if it were any other word processor, but Word is just awful. (I'm not even going to describe its tendency to think it knows better than you do what you want to do; the performance issue is just the tip of the iceberg)

I composed the original 900,000-word autobiography in a plain text editor (all in one document, with no resultant sluggishness) and only moved it to Word when I had excised the part of my story that I wanted to turn into this book, and even then I often did my edits outside of Word and then pasted them back in after changes.

Anyway, be all that as it may, the change-tracking feature works pretty nicely.
In addition to breaking up my run-on sentences and catching my typos, Susan Edwards inserts comments asking me to clarify and reword, or points out reasons that a passage may be confusing to my readers, and so I have homework. The change-tracking highlights my own changes in blue so she can see what I've modified when I sent it back to her.

The final authority on the changes belongs to me; she emphasized that I am free to accept or reject her changes, and in some cases I look at what she modified and decide to go at it in a different way.

In her email containing the manuscript with her edits, this is what she wrote:

I really enjoyed working on your book. You’ve had a fascinating journey and you capture the pain, pathos, pride, confusion, and triumph of that journey with intelligence, thoughtfulness, an open heart and mind, and a wonderful wry sense of humor. Well done!

You write well and have a distinctive, intelligent and wry voice, but your sentences tend to be overly long and difficult to navigate with lots of run-ons and too many clauses. This makes them hard to read and frustrating for the reader. I’ve broken up a lot of them to show you the best and simplest way to do it. I’ve also indicated other sentences that you need to break up, but I suggest you go through and identify still more and smooth them out.

I’ve also broken up your paragraphs, which also tend to be too long. Large blocks of text are disinviting to the reader. You need to give your reader plenty of spots to rest, jump in and out of the narrative. Also, dialog always needs to start on a new paragraph when the speaker changes.

Speaking of dialog, your dialog is mostly good, if occasionally a bit stiff and formal (for lack of contractions), and it is consistently mispunctuated. I’m attaching a tutorial on how to punctuate dialog. I think I’ve found and fixed most of the errors, and our final line editor will also check, but it’s good for you to know how to do it and to check for errors too.

Other than those niggling details, I think the book needs very little work. So what we’re looking at is really more of a nice polish to make it shine. I like the way you’ve broken it up into sections and chapters, and I like the titles. I added chapter numbers. I also like the flow and the way you tell your story, foreshadowing certain things to come when appropriate. I’ve noted in the manuscript just a couple of times you need to set the scene a bit better and clarify things.



I have a few more passes to make on my end before I sent the document with MY edits back to her, and then we move on to having it scheduled internally for production!

————————

Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
On April 29, I presented my talk about gender inversion and being genderqueer to an audience at Baltimore Playhouse. This was fundamentally the same talk I presented at LIFE in Nassau in March of last year.



It went well — I was a stronger speaker with more confidence, I think I did a better job of establishing and maintaining rapport with my audience, and since last March I culled out some points that didn't contribute well and in other places elaborated or brought up other more cogent points. Oh, and I was also in good health this time, instead of being right on the cusp of a nasty bout of bronchitis, which probably also makes a difference. At any rate I had a good time and I think my message was well-received.

One of the newly added "planks" of my presentation was inserted at the end. Following up on the opening admission that this is just my take on the phenomenon of being genderqueer and that if you went to hear another speaker's talk on the subject you'd be hearing a different perspective, I dove into some of the internal politics that take place within the larger gender-variant community.

Arriving very late -- essentially missing the presentation aside from the question & answer session at the end -- was a woman who does advocacy work involving lobbying the insurance folks who control health care decisions that affect transgender people seeking sexual reassignment surgery and related treatments. But when she asked what the talk had been about, I soon ended up encapsulating some some key points and we ended up having this discussion with her:

ADV: It's frustrating that so many of these people who are trying to obtain the surgery they need can't just get into the program. Instead, we have had to position the need on a biological basis, as correcting a birth defect, and we're trying to show a pattern on MRI of the brain, but that means you have to demonstrate that difference or you would be denied coverage.

ME: Yeah, what do they envision would happen if they covered the surgery for all people who sought it out? Are they imagining that there would be this long line of people who are NOT transgender coming in to get an operation? Who the heck do they think would be seeking it out under false pretenses, and why?

ADV: I know, I know! No one's going to go through that without compelling good reason, it's silly. But it's the only thing that seems to be working.

ME: One of the things I talked about tonight was intellectual dishonesty. Where you take a side in a debate not because you think that side is correct, but because you've looked down the road at the outcome of it being CONSIDERED correct and you embrace that belief not because you think it is actually correct but because of what "believing" it lets you claim or conclude. You aren't getting on board with the idea that there's a built-in brain difference telling people they should have a different set of organs and parts because you have seen the evidence and think it is true. You're promoting that explanation because you believe it will enable you to get insurance companies to pay for the treatments.

ADV: I know, you're right. It is intellectually dishonest. We shouldn't have to couch it that way, but they're from a medical background, and they think in terms of pathology. There's also the problem with needing a psychiatric clearance.

ME: You mean where in order to be okayed, a person who wishes to transition has to embrace all the personality and behavioral nuances associated with the sex they want to transition to? They don't allow a person who was born male who likes traditionally male things and is attracted to women and behaves in a masculine way but says these male parts are all wrong, to transition? So that after transitioning she can live her life as a rather butch lesbian?

ADV: That's right. For a year. You have to exhibit the dominant characteristics of that gender for a year.

ME: I don't know that there aren't built-in biological differences. There might be. I tend to emphasize the social, but there might have been something in me, in my brain, that caused me to gravitate towards girls as the people I fit in with and wanted to emulate and be perceived as. But I'm worried that the model that's being embraced to support transitioning erases the identities of people like me. People for whom the body is not the issue, not the problem. If the narrative that people end up accepting in their heads as the definition and explanation of what it means to be a girl in an apparently male body doesn't leave any room for someone who accepts both their maleness and their girl-ness as healthy and right, people like me have no home in that movement. We end up being erased, told that we don't exist or that we don't matter.

Already I don't identify as transgender myself, because even though transgender is defined as "your gender does not match what you were assigned at birth", the truth of the matter is that anyone who is told that I am transgender is going to expect a transitioner — someone transitioning male to female (m2f) for female to male (f2m). Instead, I identify as genderqueer. Fewer wrong expectations. Better truth-in-labeling.

I am not immune to intellectual dishonesty myself. I try not to be, but I probably skew my presentation of the facts in order that my audience's acceptance of them supports the conclusions I want them to reach. But I am trying not to erase other gender-variant people even when my model doesn't explain them particularly well.

So in my talk I described that male-bodied masculine person, an extremely conventional kind of guy... "Except that Joan isn't a guy. Joan says this male body is just wrong. It has the wrong parts. So she is transitioning to female, at which point she will be a very masculine person with conventionally male interests, but female, and she will live her life as a lesbian.

WHY? Well many transgender activists speak of a biological cause, a built-in difference in the brain. That it is NOT social, is not about personality and roles and what society does or does not consider "masculine" and "feminine". Phantom limb sensation sort of thing. The body in and of itself as wrong...

If there is a 'Joan', she would probably not feel included by an explanation that stresses social messages and social notions and perceptions. So although I have not met her, I am mentioning her now for you to add to your map of possibilities."

(The health services advocate later assures me that there ARE people like Joan. "I've met Joan", she says. That must be an especially frustrating situation, then, in a world where even fairly feminine m2f people feel pressured to practically turn themselves into Barbie dolls in order to "justify" their transition. Wow)

Peace to you, transgender activists. Let us try to support each other and be allies. We aren't entirely in the same situation and we'll sometimes have the opportunity to forward our own cause at the expense of each other because of our different situations. Let's avoid doing that whenever and wherever we can.

————————

Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
Asymptotic Gender

Did you click on this thinking it said "aSYMPTOMATIC" gender? Ha! Tricked you into looking!

My dictionary defines an "asymptote" as "a line that continually approaches a given curve but does not meet it at any finite distance." It's a math thing, which isn't really my speciality area, but hold onto that notion for a moment anyway...

In the political arena where gender identity gets discussed, there are people who believe that gender differences are for real, solidly built into reality quite aside from how we perceive (or don't perceive) them; and then there are people who believe that gender differences only exist as social constructs — you know, stereotypes, arbitrary notions imposed by society, conventions that aren't anchored in anything except tradition.

It probably seems likely to most people that the first group is the problematic group for people who don't ascribe to a conventional gender identity. I mean, that's the broad category that's going to include all the people who think of gender and biological sex as the same thing: "if you got a cock you're a man, if you own a cunt you're a woman, end of story", those people. On the other hand, this first group is ALSO going to include people who believe that transgender people have a gender (not just BELIEVE that they have a gender) that is at odds with their biological sex, and that's why it makes sense for them to transition medically. They may believe that gender consists of neurostructural differences in the brain or the cognitive and behavioral after-effects of hormonal exposures... or they may not have a physical explanation... but whatever gender is to them, they don't see it as an artificial collection of roles and expectations foisted onto people by society.

At any rate, meanwhile we've got this second group of people, who at first glance would seem to be the ones who would harbor liberal tolerant attitudes that would benefit us gender-nonconformist atypical folks. For them, gender IS artificial. Except for history and the unfinished business of getting rid of sexist ideas about male and female characteristics and nature and so on, there's no THERE there; gender, they'd say, is a myth, or a social problem caused by sexist society.

Well, I often get into arguments with people of the second sort, arguments that go something like this:

ME: ... Yeah, gender issues is my main issue at the moment. Trying to
move towards a world where young people who are like I was can grow
up with more understanding and acceptance instead of being treated
like something's wrong with them.

THEM: That's not really an issue any more, though, is it? Things have
changed, I think kids don't have to face that any more.

ME: No, I can't agree with that. No doubt that things are a whole lot
better, but there's still no mental image and no role or role model
for a male-bodied person to live as one of the girls outside of the
boxes marked "gay" and "trans". And by "trans" I mean transitioning.
Deciding that the male body needs fixing in order to be an OK person.

THEM: But what does "live as one of the girls" mean anyway? Girls don't have
to "live as one of the girls" anymore, themselves. We're free of all
that. Boys don't have to live as one of the boys either. It's not
like it was.

ME: You mean there's more acceptance of people who don't conform to the
old sex-specific expectations than there used to be. I agree with
that...

THEM: See, exactly! Now, you take a young boy today, he's got the freedom
to be all macho-man if he wants but he can also choose to be outside
of all that and be androgynous, metrosexual, show his feminine side,
that's all cool now. For awhile it was really only girls who had
that freedom but now it's pretty much true for the boys too. David
Bowie and Boy George, hey, the world isn't what it was when you grew
up in it. So he's got freedom to choose whatever gender expression
fits him best.


Well, no. There's a problem there, hidden in plain sight right there in that very description. Let's conjure up a random and hypothetical observer and stick that observer in the middle school hallway. Into the hallway walks an individual we identity as male, someone presenting as male-bodied, and that's all we know about him, all we've got to go on so far. Our expectations, our anticipations, are that he MAY be a conventionally masculine, stereotypically gendered male-bodied person, or he MAY be a sensitive new-age guy all metrosexual and androgynous, one of the people who do not buy into that old masculinity stuff, and all of that is socially acceptable. Our expectations, in other words, are sort of smeared across an area between masculine and androgynous. What if he's feminine?

"Why would he be feminine?", the liberal social-constructionist voice interrupts.

I shrug. I point down the same hall to where a person presenting as female-bodied is now walking. "You anticipate that SHE might be. Also, of course, that she might NOT be, that she might be androgynous, free of all that feminizing sexist whatchamacallit, but you haven't stopped anticipating that she MIGHT be feminine".

So the socially liberal folks who think of gender as an artificial social construct maintain different expectations. Not because they think gender is inherently real but because they expect some people to still ascribe to it, and because they haven't withdrawn acceptance for female-bodied people who are indeed exhibiting traditionally-feminine characteristics. Why would they? If asked, they would say that they believe strongly that people should not be FORCED or PRESSURED to conform to the gendered expectations associated with their sex, but that doesn't mean that everyone should get frog-marched at the point of a politically-correct disapproval-gun into the androgynous zone whether they like it or not.

Within the framework of their liberal acceptance, the expectations and anticipations projected onto females and those projected onto males approach each other asymptotically, and we hail it as progress, but they do not meet.



-----

So my big new project of the moment is a colloquium-class of six people, taught by a professional who has been an author, an editor, and a literary agent. It's an online course (so no physical classes together) but presumably we will interact through software and via commenting on each other's writings, both our big writings-in-progress and our little essays and exercises and whatnot. It officially starts Thursday and I'm looking forward to it!


In other news, my presentation to Baltimore Playhouse, "Gender Inversion, Being Genderqueer, and Living in a World of Gender Assumptions", was postponed because of the big snowstorm and has been rescheduled for April 29. Between now and then, I hope to do some readings in Manhattan at various "writers read their works" / "open mike" events. My partner A2 (she who lives @ lower east side) has made a concerted effort to link me up with several such opportunities and I've submitted some of my work to "Word" at the Sidewalk Cafe, and plan on submitting samples / proposed readings to Dixon Place and Cornelia Street Cafe and a few others. I've anointed this spring and summer as my season to get myself in front of a microphone (or podium) and start presenting my material. Also in this broad category is the possibility of presenting to some combination of Women's Center and LGBT Center at SUNY / Old Westbury.


I continue to seek to get my book published, of course.

Four small publishers have rejected it: Seal Press, Harmony Ink Press, Bookoutre, and Triton Books.

I have inquiries pending at Manic D Press and Neuroqueer Books.



... and here's the status of my pitching The Story of Q to lit agents:


Total Queries to date: 718
Rejections: 700
Outstanding: 18

As Nonfiction, total queries: 500
Rejections: 483
Outstanding: 17

As Fiction, total queries: 218
Rejections: 217
Outstanding: 1

————————

Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
Last year around this time I carved a pumpkin and playfully dubbed the result "Jill O Lantern"



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

————————

Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
I was around 8 or 9 years old when I first experienced the boys' bathroom as an unsafe place. The other boys would talk about dicks and shitting and piss, had quite the case of pottymouth on them, and they quickly noticed that I was a prudish and prim and prissy kid who didn't join in and wasn't comfortable around them. They'd cluster around me sometimes when I went in, to ask me obscene questions and enjoy making me uncomfortable, and I didn't much care for their company, especially when combined with the intermingled necessity of having our pants open and our private parts exposed.

That made it all the more startling when, just a few years later, adult males accused me of loitering and being up to something disgusting. They didn't specify what but said I should knock off the phony innocent act and they better not catch me hanging out there, do my business and leave, and I should be ashamed of myself.

I went to summer camp one year in my grandmother's home town where no one knew me. I went in enthusiastic because it would be a fresh start, instead of being among people who had already singled me out as someone to ridicule and harass. That made it so much worse when the same behaviors spontaneously generated themselves and made me fully aware that it was me, not something uniquely messed-up about the people on my block and at my school.

I was showering in the locker room after gym class and when I headed back to the area with the lockers and benches to put on my street clothes, the other boys watched with expectant amusement. I tried to ignore them and just get dressed but after a moment I realized my underwear was missing from my locker. "Where are your panties, Alice? Did you leave them at home?" I stared from face to face, miserable, expecting someone to toss them to me along with further mocking comments but instead everyone was delighted to make suggestions about how I might find them. Eventually a theme developed: I should really go check out the stalls, they think I might find them there. I did: floating in a filthy unflushed toilet.

When I was 19 I was at a party outdoors and a guy there decided I needed some attitude adjustment. He punched me a couple times then an hour or so later came up to me, pretending he wanted to apologize, offering me his hand, and then punching me again when I went to take it. Suddenly his friends had flashlights shining in my face and blinding me while he proceeded to kick and chop at me while everyone laughed. The consensus seemed to be that I had it coming for being such a sissy fag.


So I felt like I'd been through some experiences that were pretty nasty and creepy and I hadn't done anything to deserve such things happening to me. I didn't know why but I promised myself that if I ever figured out what caused this to happen to me, there was going to be some settling up about it. I was going to show the world, get some justice, have some satisfaction.



Now I want to fast-forward to the current era and talk about something I did just the other day: I told some gay men and some transgender women (male to female) that the group I was trying to start, a group for people like me, wasn't really intended for them. (Although they could participate as allies and supporters and be welcome in that capacity)

That not only sounds and feels highly suspect, it's hard not to label it inexcusible bigotry. I mean, WHAT?? I'm starting some kind of group and keeping out gay men and transwomen??

Let me explain how that came about...



In the last 2 weeks...

• I finally got pushy enough with Long Island LGBT center to prompt someone to call me back. It didn't go well: "I'm director of programming... so you're offering your presentation as something we could include in programming, well thank you but no thanks we don't need any additional programming". I wasn't expecting it to feel quite so much like dealing with an Institution; I was expecting it to feel like dealing with a fervent social change activist who maybe would be dismissive of my perspective on some kind of political grounds, but this made me feel like a salesperson being told "no we don't need what you're selling".

• I posted to my liberal-intellectual internet message board and was told I am not gay and I am not transgender so I should shut the fuck up, that gay people's concerns are legitimate and transgender people's concerns are legitimate but I'm just a cisgender hetero guy who has some traits socially considered "feminine", just like most guys do, and apparently I just want to be a special snowflake and pretend that I have a social cause. With less hostility, some of the others posted that I can't be a movement unto myself and that I need to network with others like me, if I can find them; and if I can't find them then maybe I really AM a special snowflake and that when I speak I'm not speaking for anyone other than my own individual self and, if so, why should anyone care what I went through if it's not still happening in any meaningful way to anyone else like me?

• I decided that was a good point and went into Identity House on International Coming-Out Day and had an individual session. I figured my need and desire to participate as an activist and shed some light on my personal gender identity as a social cause was, indeed, a personal need, something relevant to my own emotional health and well-being. It went... OK. The two peer counselors didn't treat me like "WTF are you doing here, you're just a hetero cis guy". On the other hand, they were less helpful than I'd hoped for as far as connecting me up with Identity House people who might be interested in hearing more about this as another gender identity needing political attention. They DID say they'd put me on the email list for a Gender Exploration Group to be scheduled for sometime this fall, which I could be in, and when I indicated an interest in doing what they were doing, i.e., being peer counselors, said they'd put me on the list of people who could be called the next time they do an in-house training. That would get my foot in the door as well as being something I think I'd be decently good at and would enjoy doing.

• And meanwhile, I started a Meetup group titled "OTHER Victims of Homophobia, Transphobia, & Sissyphobia". I figured that plus the descriptive blurb I wrote about it might get me in contact with other people like me in a way that my blog and my participation in genderqueer and transgender and related Facebook groups has not. What happened instead was that about eight people quickly joined my Meetup group and the ones who wrote anything at all about themselves either identified as gay males or as transgender women (MTF). And because I was specifically trying to see if I could find and network with other malebodied people who identify as girl-like or effeminate, and/or as girls or women, but not with intention of presenting as female-bodied or becoming female-bodied, I found myself informing them that they could be supporters and welcome here in that capacity but that the group was intended as a group to bring together males OTHER than gay guys or male to female transgender who had been victims of homophobia-and-company.


So...

How politically legitimate is it, how legitimate CAN it be, to be starting a group that disincludes gay people and trans male-to-female people? I'd prefer that you not judge me blithely but at the same time let's not dismiss this concern lightly either. It's a question that goes deeper than this one Meetup group, but rather has to do with my entire gender identity itself.

From my vantage point, I was mistreated for being a sissy and so I set forth to come out and confront the world as an activist sissy. But the gay question is the Giant Pink Elephant in the Living Room. When people were being hostile towards me for being a sissy-boy, they expressed it as hostility towards gay guys. When people expressed sympathy and tolerance towards me, they expressed it as sympathy for and tolerance of me as a gay guy. And the reason I still perceive a need to change the message that kids hear out there is that some hypothetical kid like me growing up is going to hear some continuing hostility towards sissy guys, identifying them as gay, and they are going to hear a strong social dissent that says it is perfectly OK and downright fabulous to be a sissy gay guy.

I could already hear that social dissent in the 1970s when I was a teenager, but it wasn't helpful to me. No one was saying it was OK to be someone like me.


But it means I'm distancing myself from gay guys, making a point of saying I'm proud that I'm not. Or rather that I am proud of who I am and who I am is a sissy-guy who is not gay, which still collapses to the same thing.

Maybe that's part of why it's so damn difficult to find others like me.

On top of the other problems that come with it, we're setting ourselves up to be perceived as homophobic. And/or as protesting awfully loudly, like we're in denial or something, because why else (people tend to ask) would people go around asserting that they aren't gay? So maybe the other sissy males who are not attracted to male-bodied people don't identify as sissy in order to avoid being more rapidly and completely designated as gay, and don't identify as "sissy but NOT gay" in order to avoid being designated as homophobic and closeted and in denial and gay.


The transgender part of it is somewhat different. Although I was occasionally taunted and mocked as a kid by someone explicitly calling me a girl, it has generally NOT been the case that people assume that because I exhibit feminine qualities I must be a male-to-female transgender person. (Gay continues to be the default assumption). It's only where and when I go to the trouble of explaining that I am a male-bodied person who is a girl inside that I find a lot of my space taken up by the Little Pink Elephant, the assumption that anyone who is born in a body designated as male but who identifies as a girl or woman is going to want to transition, is going to identify as female as well as girl or woman, because, after all, girls and women are female.

Outside of one Facebook group, I have not been accused of being transphobic or politically incorrect about how I am attempting to identify. But I've found it difficult for people to comprehend. A lot of people are willing to believe that there is something primordially female in some folks born in male bodies, but they find it less easy to understand that a person born in a male body could possess the personality and behavioral characteristics and patterns of a girl or woman and could come to consider that to be a far more essential definition of SELF than the physical body, but not reject the body itself as any more wrong than being a woman is wrong. "What does it mean to be a woman if you're not female?", people ask me. I'm talking here about people who accept the transgender phenomenon, not the people who go around saying "If you got a dick you're a man not a woman". They could understand if I said I was SUPPOSED to have been born female, that I'm a woman inside and therefore this body is a birth defect. But they don't comprehend how I could feel and say "I am male and I am a girl and there's nothing wrong with me that needs fixing, get used to it".



My mind these last two weeks has returned to the question: WHY is it so damn difficult to put these ideas out there and WHY do I not find them resonating with other people? WHY do they not have the explanatory power for other people that they do for me? (I'd think that even for people who aren't at all like I am, these ideas would explain a lot of things they've observed in the world and they'd go "Aha, lots of things just clicked into place for me").



Maybe I'm the only one. (Seems unlikely, but what if?)


And then there's Douglas Hofstadter, who in his book Gödel Escher Bach spoke of systems of expression (mathematical languages or computer programming languages or any other formal system) and how, for any of them, there are things that are true but which can't be derived or expressed according to the rules of those very systems of expression. That's the essence of Gödel's theorem, but Hofstadter took the idea and ran with it in more universal directions. At one point he posits a high-end audiophile's sound system and asks (paraphrased *) "Won't any such system have sounds that they can't play because those very sounds, themselves, if reproduced with accuracy and volume, would be destructive to the delicate parts that comprise the sound system?"

Perhaps in the gendered world as it is familiarly constituted, the experiences I am trying to express are not expressible — that the act of expressing them interferes directly with their expression, that the architecture of ideas and language that we use to express things somehow contains a sort of Bermuda Triangle of entwined connotations that makes these particular notions impossible to convey, as every attempt to do so conveys something else instead. (Seems unlikely and quite the conceit on my part to entertain such a notion, but yeah, obviously I've done so).

————————

Index of all Blog Posts

Eye Opener

Oct. 4th, 2015 10:18 pm
ahunter3: (Default)
No one had called me back from multiple voicemails I'd left with the Long Island LGBT organization, the one that operates the transgender support groups I've attended in Bay Shore (young, well-attended) and Woodbury (more nearby, sparsely attended). No one had emailed me back from the emails I'd sent to the woman who teaches Women's Studies at Old Westbury (where I was a Women's Studies major 1985-88) and who also runs the women's center on campus. I had put on my calendar a note to myself to get off my ass and follow through on both of these, to talk with the people involved and get the proverbial ball rolling on booking me to give some kind of presentation on gender, to be more of a local presence doing gender here on Long Island. Gotta build the author's platform, you know.

So with the professor at Old Westbury, I obtained her office hours at least, with the notion that I could do this best if I could be seated across from her and sketch out some of what I wanted to present; I was figuring her lack of follow-through and lack thus far of enthusiasm was reasonable, she doesn't know what my content is going to be like, why would she opt to have me present to her class just because I said I'd like to do so?

So next I called the LGBT folks. Similar assumption: they have no reason to rush out and try to schedule me to present my material when they don't know as of yet what my material is. Seems like the thing to do is try to arrange a sit-down where I can explain enough of it for them to gauge my seriousness and the degree to which my perspective adds to rather than clashes with whatever they're putting on. The receptionist took down some basic info including my telephone number and then said she'd have the programming director get back to me shortly.


I get the call maybe 45 minutes later. "So what's this about?", she asks. "Well", I say, fumbling my way into it, "I consider myself to be a subtype of genderqueer... really I haven't found much information about people like me in the materials that tend to be presented, and I guess you could say I'm trying to come out of the closet and be recognized for who I am, but that recognition requires people's willingness to accept another gender identity. I have some materials and I gave a presentation at one local group which went over well, and I was wondering if I could make an appointment to come in and discuss, well, maybe I could do a presentation there, either in Woodbury or in Bay Shore".

"Oh, well, we're not really seeking any additional programming resources at this point but thanks anyway".

"I don't mean I'm trying to get a paid position or anything, I mean just the ideas themselves, I'd like to sit down with you folks as activists".

"That won't be necessary. Is there anything else I can help you with?"

"I...um...wait... I don't seem to be expressing myself well. I have trouble doing this over the phone. I'm... I found it difficult to... sort things out for myself growing up and... and I promised myself long ago that I'd see that younger people would not have to deal with this all by themselves, and there's still no voice out there that I can really recognize as a voice of someone like me."

"So is there some specific service you want from us?"

"I...you... I assume you are concerned with social... liberation, justice... in the same ways and that if what I'm trying to do is... meshes with... that we're approaching the same issues and concerns..."

"As I said, we're not looking for any programming to add at this point. We have support groups that meet in Bay Shore and Woodbury that you're welcome to attend and although you said you aren't seeking therapeutic counseling for yourself, that's what I'd recommend for you. Aside from that I don't know what else we can do for you".

I repeated that I felt that I flail badly at this sort of thing on the phone and she suggested I email her instead, so I took her up on it, and explained more completely how I viewed my own situation and how I felt that I had a gender identity that wasn't on the radar, generally speaking, and that I wanted to do something about that. She wrote back once again saying that the best they could offer me was the support group that I'd already been to.


I went to bed that night with an old old frustration burning hotly new, that too-familiar feeling of "I can't believe this isn't of more interest than it seems to be, why isn't anyone inclined to be grabbed by it the way other people's issues grab me when I hear about them? Why the hell can't I make common cause with people?"


I woke up the next morning with a different judgment on myself. I've been kicking myself pretty hard these past 5 years for not trying harder to connect with organizations like Identity House and discuss my issues with gay and lesbian and transgender activists and instead putting all my efforts and energies into connecting with feminists and discussing my issues as aspects of feminist theory and feminist movement gender politics. Oh, sure, I've given myself a pass for having taken awhile to realize the possibilities and potential in gender activism, of seeing msyelf as part of the LBGT spectrum. But there was all that sense that gee, I'd *been there* and that I should have been playing a part of the political scene in which the modern transgender and genderqueer identities have burst onto the scene. But this morning I sat up and realized "I really *did* go to Identity House. And I really *did* try to talk to people about how I was and what my concerns were. And I stopped going or didn't develop a habit of going very often because my concerns did not mesh with the concerns of the people I met there, and they weren't particularly curious about or fascinated by me as someone coming at this from a somewhat different angle than they were.

So now again this seems to be the case.

OK. Fundamentals. The stance I have taken towards "Society", in its overweening unwashed entirety, is an adversarial one. I feel mistreated and scorned and subjected to some harsh and vicious shit and I have spun around and with anger am being confrontational. This here sissy hatred has got to stop. If nothing else, I get to speak for myself, I get to have a voice, and I get to say I am happy to be who I am and I am proud to be who I am.

So I blithely turned to folks I assumed would be my allies, and blithely assumed that I'd be embraced and accepted there even though I'm different from them, because they're LESS DIFFERENT. But let's stay blunt here: my intention is to change them. To have an effect on them. To alter their agenda. It is not reasonable for me to assume that other people are going to WANT me to change them, to have that kind of affect on them, to get them to set a place for me at their planning table. So this relationship is potentially adversarial too. And I have to approach all my potential allies and comrades and similarly aligned people that I'm trying to make common cause with without expecting them to lap up whatever I exude. I'm not saying I necessarily need to become more abrasive, but I need to not be surprised if they don't immediately latch onto my ideas and priorities and instead are obstructionist and intolerant of differences and myopic in their now-institutionalized thinking on many issues.

I need to remember that, just as with academia and feminism, the individual people at close range tend to be people with job titles or positions within an organizational structure, and probably most of them are not theory-heads who spend enormous amounts of their time playing with abstract ideas about gender and expression and perception and feelings and whatnot and instead are more rooted in everyday pragmatic concerns, on which level my priorities may seem as alien to them as they would be to the local Chamber of Commerce or something.

————————

Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
Seal Press will not be publishing my book. I received the rejection letter on 9/8.

I was originally planning on querying Cleis Press next: "Cleis Press publishes provocative, intelligent books across genres. Whether literary fiction, human rights, mystery, romance, erotica, LGBTQ studies, sex guides, pulp fiction, or memoir, you know that if it's outside the ordinary, it's Cleis Press."

But then I read some things other authors have written about them in recent months that made them sound like a bad idea.

I've been contemplating Thorntree, publishers of the polyamory guide More Than Two, and in fact I sat down at my desk tonight to review their submissions policy:


To submit a proposal, please first send an email with the following information:

A one-paragraph biography, including any published works

A one-paragraph summary of the proposed work, including your intended audience

Links to your social media and Web presences

If your submission appears appropriate for our list, we will invite you to submit a complete proposal.

We will accept queries and proposals on a rolling basis.




Whether it's the mood I've been in lately or not, I can't say for sure, but right now their submission process is very discouraging. It comes across to me very much as "we might be interested in your book if you've already got a track record of publication and, in particular, if you've got a strong active platform already; outside of that, just summarize your book and its intended audience in one paragraph and we'll let you know".


I have of course continued to send query letters to literary agents. It seems to me that public attention is more focused on gender issues and gender identity than ever before, so my book is squarely located in the midst of a trendy topic. So I keep telling myself that any day now some agent could decide to represent my book and get it published. Well, here's how that's shaping up at the moment:


Total queries to date: 680
Rejections: 613
Outstanding: 67
Under Consideration: 0

As Nonfiction, specifically, total queries: 467
Rejections: 414
Outstanding: 53

As Fiction, total queries: 213
Rejections: 199
Outstanding: 14



I've been trying to make a public ripple, explain the phenomenon of being a male girl or non-transitioning transgender or heterosexual sissy or gender invert or any of the other things I've attempted to call it over the years. I've been trying to do so because once upon a time, a long long time ago, I promised myself that if I *EVER* found out why people treated me this way, if I *EVER* found out why these things were happening to me, I was going to do something about it. I've been trying to do so because once I did, in fact, figure it out, I promised myself that I'd make it so that anyone like me growing up would not have to figure it all out for themselves. I've been trying to do this as my primary avocation and purpose in life, my mission, since 1980.

You could say I've only seriously set out to do one thing in my life and I've been a pretty pathetic failure at it.

That's not entirely fair, I tell myself. Once I figured this stuff out, I also set out to actually live my life, to not merely preach these ideas but to put them into practice. And to my relief and surprise, that's been the easier part. It took decades but I got better and better at communicating up close and personal, I learned from experience how to find what I was looking for, and I found personal solutions. I get to live my everyday life not at all closeted or isolated but instead loved and understood and cared for and appreciated for who I am, and I in turn get to hold and love and cherish and have togetherness and meaningful connection in my life.

Which is to say that I've got damn little to complain about, and also to acknowledge that it is grossly insulting to people who love me for me to characterize my life as a failure.

I get to be me, and not merely in isolation. (Can anyone be themselves without connection and accepting companionship?) But there is "be" and there is "do". I set out to do something. Nothing else I have ever set out to do has held anything akin to the same kind of importance; every other activity or accomplishment has basically been distraction and entertainment along the way, including artistic accomplishments, job and career, and the acquisition of skills. This one thing is where I've invested all my determination. I am stubborn, intelligent, passionate about my issue, and I'm good with words and skilled at explaining complicated concepts, and I can't believe I've accomplished so damn little in so much time!

————————

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).



OTHER NEWS


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)
Hi! Yes, I am nearly 10 days past my presentation date, and I didn't review the experience or anything. There's a reason for that: a battallion of bronchitis buggies set up their field offices in my lungs and colonized my nose and sinus passages and left their dirty bootprints all over my carpet and stuff. I've been very busy doing things like breathing and being alive. Now I'm starting to do some other things, but reviewing my presentation at Life in Nassau / Nassau County LGBT Center isn't where I'm going to begin today. Soon, I promise.


But today I thought I'd cycle over to the Tone Police Station. We hear so much about tone policing, most of it negative and most of that, I'm afraid to say, well-deserved, but I was curious to see if there was another side, any other side, really, to the story.


Luw Movin, Community Relations Officer, was quite willing to talk to me. Luw, who prefers xe / xes / xe's pronouns, is a soft-voiced intersex individual of Aleutian and Pacific Islander background who identifies as trigender woman-man-altbeing and xe's distinctive handcarved arm-braces and some posters on xes wall proclaiming "SCHIZOPHRENIA IS A DIFFERENCE. NORMATIVITY IS A DISEASE" and "STOP INVOLUNTARY PSYCHIATRIC TREATMENT" provide testimony to Movin's status as one of the differently abled and differently minded amongst us. "Yeah, really", xe says, "I'm not a joke. What's a joke is that some of the folks in Tone Police thought that by putting an individual who belongs to the smallest number of obvious privileged identities in this chair, they could make their problems go away. You better believe there is tokenism, but I'm good at what I do and this position appeals to me for my own reasons. Sit down, if you're a person who sits by preference".

"Anyway, sure, that's part of the Department's image problem, that tone policing is a behavior of the comfortably privileged people, and directed towards marginalized people. But that's not where the Tone Police dug themselves into this hole, it's not the core of our PR problem, our public relations situation. No, the problem with the Tone Police is that we've reacted to people's anger, their expressions of trauma, by focusing on HOW UPSETTING THEY WERE BEING when they spoke of what they'd been through."

I nodded. Movin was saying just what the critics of tone policing so often said.

"You think about that for a moment", Movin continued. "Here's somebody finally putting into words how badly they were abused, the lack of any acknowledgment that treating someone that way even constituted abuse, and here come the Tone Police telling them 'Whoa, the way you say that, you could be making some folks in here feel like you're blaming them personally, be careful how you express yourself'... "

Luw Movin brushed xe's braid back from xe's face and laced xes fingers together on the desk in front of xes. "Tone Police going to be seen in one of two ways if they keep doing that. First off, people are going to feel like the content of what they have to say has been belittled, after saying something of that impact, something as personal and vivid as what they just shared, because the reaction ignores what they said and focuses on the WAY THEY SAID IT. Now, as bad as that is, that's the more charitable interpretation, because the other likely interpretation is that the Tone Police doesn't LIKE what they said, that they've got some kind of stake in the silence, that they don't WANT this kind of truth coming out, because it makes them uncomfortable, so they turn to tone policing as a way of silencing them."


"Well, wait a minute then", I reply, "because it sounds like you're agreeing with the charges people are making about tone policing. But you ARE the Tone Police, so since you're here you must have some notion that tone policing isn't always a bad thing...?"

"Are you asking if I think there's any legitimate purpose to the Tone Police? Well, yes, or at least I think there can be. At least if there's less... tone deafness from the Tone Police themselves. But let me give you some examples."

Movin glanced around the room, xes eyes finding their way over to the bookshelf on the far wall, and xe nodded. "All right. Example. Psych Rights. The National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy, 1985, the big conference. Internal politics within the movement was in more uproar than usual because the mental health system was all of a sudden trying to fund user-run self-help, and that was us. But to most everyone who'd been a part of the movement all the years up through then, the mental health system had been The Enemy. It was an Enemy of many parts, many arms and legs... you had the APA, that's your organized psychiatrists themselves, hard-core enemy; you had various state Departments of Mental Hygiene... always sounded like they thought of us as an infection, bloody Department of Mental Sanitation, but they were mostly enemy... anyway, the nationals, the Nat Institute of Mental Health, often progressive in some ways but they work with the others... the astroturf organizations, Alliance for the Mentally Ill, phony grass-roots, really the parents and families who love medical-model psychiatry because it isn't Freudian, yeah my kid is batshit insane but not because we toilet trained her wrong, she has a mental illness, and we need to be able to drug her up for her own good and ours too, so them, AMI, theoretically potential allies but Enemy, pure Enemy, in every fight along the way. Then associations and endowments and stuff, the Mental Health Association, that kind of thing. They don't have to manage institutions or justify what they've done in them so sometimes pretty progressive, but not always on the same channel as the movement. And so on. Well now all of a sudden some factions in that constellation of Enemy is saying they want to fund us. Give us money to organize, run our own alternative stuff, do public education. And overnight, half the people in the movement are all 'Oh goody goody let's write grant proposals' and the other half is 'Anyone who accepts their blood money is tainted and we should blackball them from all future movement events'." Movin shook xe's head with a wry smile. "We needed to be talking to each other, respecting each other, listening to each other. But there were a lot of people who figured certain... let's call them 'issues', I guess... certain 'issues' had ALREADY been discussed, and wise people had been present to discuss them, and a consensus was reached, and therefore we ALREADY know the answer to that one and if you're not on board with that answer you have said wrong things, you've destroyed your credibility in this context."

Movin pointed to the sign about involuntary psychiatric treatment. "That— in my opinion— is where the line in the sand should have been drawn. If the Mental Health Association of Lower Septic Tankland wants to pay us to do user-run self-help and we don't have to put anyone into an involuntary treatment situation, not by mandated referral, not by required reports to the police, zero, nada, then I don't see what's wrong with accepting that money. It costs money to run a program. If we don't run it, someone who isn't us, who doesn't share our values, is going to get that money and run something."

Xe turned around to face me head-on. "So. Tone Police. This is me, being the Tone Police, and you imagine that you, and a handful of others sitting next to you, have been saying anyone in the movement who takes money from mental health orgs has joined the oppression and is out of the movement." Xe glared at me as if I were the described faction. "YOU do not get to speak to ME, your ally and comrade, as if the wise and important people already decided this and OUR role is to either agree with them or shut up. That would be elitist, and so you sound elitist. YOU do not get magic authority by waving your arms towards established tradition in our movement, magic authority that lets YOU decide whether I have transgressed without hearing my side of things. Want to know why? Want to know why? BECAUSE WE ARE NOT ABOUT TRADITION, you noisy blustery rudeness! We are about CHANGE. All the wrongnesses that change organizations are up against, they are rigid and full of bad thoughts and ideas BECAUSE they have clotted themselves up with tradition and closed themselves off to anything new."

Xe stopped, closed xe's eyes for a moment and chuckled. "That felt good. Except of course that would not work, not saying it that way, not to them. Because Tone Police. It's the right message but the people involved, the old movement regulars, would not have reacted well to being scolded BACK even if, yes, they'd started it. But saying it, saying it the right way, that's a legitimate role for the Tone Police. To tell people, in any activist movement, that it isn't nice to tell others in the same movement that they're on the wrong side of some issue that all the people who matter have long since decided."

I scribbed some more notes for my article, but Luw Movin wasn't finished.

"There's a flip side, even there. There usually is in these matters. Simplicity and activist politics don't mix. Anyway, let's say we all agree that yes, it's bad form to tell other people in your movement, your sisters in arms and whatnot, that the word or phrase or partial opinion they just voiced is Oppressive and that they should Not Say That Again. Not like that, not in that kind of belittling tone, they're entitled to be heard out if they think otherwise than you do on it, whatever it is. But the flip side is that yes, it DOES become tiresome to have to say and resay and reiterate and explain and re-explain the same thing". Movin pointed again to the sign about forced treatment. "The funding did happen. Lots of organizations that applied for it were not our movement and were not opposed on principle to forced treatment. A few years later, people who had come up through user-run self-help orgs that were not movement-run began coming to meetings we'd called and advertised. And they'd say HORRIBLE things in discussion groups! 'Hey that person who just spoke sounded awfully confused and decompensated to me, don't you think we should call 911, maybe they're off their meds and need to be locked up' So immediately of course it wasn't a safe place and what they'd said was wrong in so many ways... " Movin shrugged. "After the first time we implemented an identity policy. That who we were, if you were in here, if you were in these groups, was not just user-run self-help but user-run self-help that accepted, as a principle, that we did not use or condone forced treatment. That lets us stop situations like that without violating the Tone Police principles. I don't want to become that gal or guy who says 'You Just Said a Bad Thing. That Was Wrong and Oppressive and Triggering and You Must Self-abase Now". The Tone Police are still right to jump on that kind of behavior."

"Well", I asked, "so are you going to take every one of the ideas that most of the activists in your cause have come to accept as true and incorporate those into your Declaration of Identity? Does that fix the problem, or are you just sort of relocating it from being an internal friction thing to an us versus them thing?"

"If we took everything that the loudest and most contiguous, let's say, block of activists agreed on and made every one of them part of our Definition, we'd have very little rancorous argument. Of course we'd have maybe 11 members, having either defined everyone else as not-us or driven anyone else away with the sheer volume of what they're supposed to read and say 'Yeah I agree with that' before they can even come in and participate. Look, there are GOING to be hurt feelings and misunderstandings and miscommunications. Someone is GOING to say something that reminds someone else of the way the Oppressor used that language and they're going to find it triggering, and they will hopefully say so and explain what hearing that evokes in them. But you know what? You know what? It doesn't mean the person who said it did something wrong. People complain about the Tone Police as if tone were unimportant, but it's the tone that the Oppressor gave the phrase that made it triggering. How you say something, the hostility or contempt or belitting condescension or whatever, that is what gives terms and phrases, and even opinions and positions and ideas sometimes, their bite. Think of the worst epithet you can think of, a word so bad that people in nearly any progressive movement would be horrified to be seated next to anyone who spoke it. Got one in mind? Got any idea of the origin of the word itself, like what language it comes from, what it meant in that language... OK you're nodding. Tone. And given enough time of the Oppressor using a word with a tone, you've got a meaning, the tone has become the meaning. But if you have an activist movement, well, not just the voice of the Oppressor gets to put tone to a word or a phrase. You hear of any activist movements that have reclaimed what was hurled at them as a derogatory term, and they use it with pride? Oppressor is not the only voice that gets to have tone. So part of Tone Police's role is to say, sometimes, 'Back down. I understand what you heard is something you associate with negative. But the person who just said that is in here, one of us. Give the speaker the benefit of the doubt. You heard it elsewhere with a tone that the current speaker didn't necessarily intend. You should hear it here with the ear you give to someone who shares this cause with you, and don't be so fast in saying 'Bad Word' or 'Phrase Used By the Oppressor', at least not until you've given it an opportunity to be something new and different".

"Well... you've given me a lot to write about, and I think my readers will find this interesting to think about. I want to thank you for your time".

"Well, I should be thanking you for yours. You may be helping the image of the Tone Police with your article... it's not like it could get a lot worse than it is at the moment. Your readers spend their political attention in one or more activist concerns and movements, I imagine. I bet it isn't the psychiatric rights movement, though, is it?"

"Not for most of my readers, I'd say, no".

"Good. Some things are easier to hear and understand when the examples given aren't right up close to where they've been spending their time. Send me a link to it when it comes out, OK?"

I said I would.

————————

Index of all Blog Posts

Profile

ahunter3: (Default)
ahunter3

September 2017

S M T W T F S
     12
3 456789
10 111213141516
17 181920212223
24252627282930

Most Popular Tags

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Style Credit

Page generated Sep. 24th, 2017 03:08 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios