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ahunter3: (Default)
I've written about this before in passing but it's been on my mind throughout the year, so since this is a good time for an end-of-year summary, I'm going to focus on it today. Look at the following and check out the disparities:


OKCupid, the dating site, has recently expanded their options for describing yourself. I can now identify myself not merely as either a woman or a man, but also as androgynous; or bigender; or cis man; or cis woman; or genderfluid; or genderqueer; or gender nonconforming; or hijira; or intersex; or non-binary; or Pandenger; or Transfeminine; or Transgender; or Transmasculine; or Transsexual; or Trans Man; or Trans Woman; or Two Spirit. Is that incredible and impressive in its flexibility, or what? It's a real victory, isn't it! Oh, and that's just my gender and sex; for orientation I can specify not merely whether I am gay or straight but also could identify as Bisexual; Asexual; Demisexual; Heteroflexible; Homoflexible; Lesbian; Pansexual; Queer; Questioning; or SapioSexual.

So now we move to the section where people position themselves for their own searches and for where and how they appear when other folks search for potential partners. I see that I can be looking for women, for men, or for "everyone". And I can be included in searches for men, for women, or for "everyone".

*scowl*


The oft-mentioned Genderbread 2.0 diagram starts off with the compelling and provocative notion that rather than just one axis (male/man versus female/woman) or two (male/man versus female/woman and gay versus straight) or even three (male versus female, man versus woman, gay versus straight), we need at least four (gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and who you're attracted to): For gender identity I could identify myself as nongendered or as a strongly gendered person (man or woman) or anywhere along the continuum. For gender expression, I could consider myself agender (or androgynous) or as a strongly gender-expressed masculine or feminine person, or anywhere in between. That's actually more complexity than I myself tend to find necessary, since we haven't even gotten to biological sex yet—I mean, I guess one could consider one's self to be strongly gendered as a man and to be strongly gender-expressed as a feminine person, regardless of what bodily plumbing they've got, but even on the Genderqueer and Transgender community groups and boards that I'm on, I have to say I haven't encountered that. Anyways, onwards to biology: I can specify that I am asexual (or intersex) or that I am specifically sexed as male or female, or anywhere along the spectrums between. That's an impressive set of choices, isn't it? I could register as a woman, as feminine, as male.

So then for attraction I'm offered the choice of being attracted to nobody (asexual) or attracted to men/males/masculinity or to women/females/femininity.

*scowl*


Y'all see the problem, right?

My own attraction involves female-bodied people. But if I sought out female-bodied people generically in hopes of a sexual/romantic connection, I'd be wasting a lot of their time, and mine, since some of them are going to be attracted only to female-bodied people and some of them are going to be attracted only to masculine manly people and I am neither of those things. So I would want to be placing myself where I would show up on the radar of female-bodied people who want feminine womanly male-bodied people, naturally. Well YEESH! Neither OKCupid nor the Genderbread diagram have a slot for any such attraction! With all their expansive flexibility for self-description, their array of choices for what you're looking for and, therefore, what your potential audience of seeking-people might be on the search for, is limited and reductionistic and damn traditional. OKCupid lets me be genderqueer and gender nonconforming but those who might appreciate meeting someone like me have to choose between "looking for men" and "looking for women". Genderbread lets me be a male feminine woman but there's no way to diagram a person who would be ATTRACTED TO a male feminine woman.

And if my own attraction towards female-bodied people isn't generic, if for example I don't have much taste for girly girls and would like to narrow my defined interest to more willful, more tomboyish, less feminine-flavored female-bodied people, that's not available on OKCupid or on the Genderbread diagram either, now is it? There's a REASON I do not identify as "heterosexual". It's not just about me myself not being adequately defined by the terms "man" or "male" or "woman" or "feminine" by themselves. It's also about the personality and interests and sexual tastes of the other person.

*sigh*

Conveniently, I am not for the moment actively seeking new partners, being involved and immersed in good ongoing relationships, but that's neither here nor there. Being able to identify in terms of what floats your boat IS part of self-definition and we DO use that as part of the explication of ourselves to others. The problem doesn't just go away once you're no longer on the prowl, as it were!


Side Note

Even the admittedly admirable array of self-descriptives doesn't have a real home for me when you get right down to it. I mean, thank you OKCupid for the increased set of choices but "genderqueer" and "gender nonconforming" basically translate as "it's something else" without saying what. "Transgender", despite the inclusive expansion of the umbrella to include folks like me, doesn't differentiate between someone like me and someone who experiences dysphoria and wants to change their body to fit their gender, and THEY were here first, it's THEIR word. And I'm not straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, demisexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, or pansexual.


I'm gender inverse and my orientation is straightbackwards. I'm still not on the damn map.

OK, pardon the self-hijack, let's get back to the main issue here.

Being Wanted

In the transgender community, the prospect or possibility of someone being specifically attracted to transgendered people is not by any means greeted with unproblematic acceptance and joy.

"Chasers" are regarded by many transfolk with wary suspicion, that such people have an overly-prurient interest in an aspect of them that they themselves regard more or less as an unwanted medical condition. The goal or ideal situation for MANY transgender people is that they be seen, viewed, and understood as a normal ordinary member of the sex/gender that they identify with, with a minimum focus on the sex/gender to which they were assigned by birth, with a limited-to-nonexistent focus on the wrong/unwanted sex-specific bodyparts they were born with.

So to the extent that that's not a misrepresentation, and is true for more transgender people than not, I'm not one of them, my situation is different. The genderqueer community is a better match, perhaps, for people who would have the same complaint that I do. Regardless of whether a person is a gender invert like me, or genderfluid or andrygynous or non-binary or agenderous or something else instead, I would imagine that most of us want not only to be allowed terminologies to describe ourselves, but also the opportunity to meet people who WANT our particular configuration (whether to the exclusion of any other config or not) as what they are ATTRACTED TO. And as long as descriptions of what people are attracted to is still limited to "you like guys, or girls, or both, or neither?", we aren't being accorded real attention and real understanding.

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ahunter3: (Default)
So... I recently replied to a post on one of the gender forums I'm on, a post from someone doing a research project titled "Are You Transgender?" —


> I'm a girl, that's my gender; I'm male, that's my sex; I'm attracted
> to females, that's my orientation.
>
> I don't feel as if I were born in the wrong body.
>
>
> I don't know if you'd like to include me or not, but I will
> definitely participate if you wish to interview me.


She wrote back and asked me several questions and we exchanged emails and so on. Somewhere along the way I mentioned that I'm trying to have a book published, my coming-out story, "narrative / memoir, possibly marketed as fiction. No author's agent yet".

So she wrote back: "Awesome! What are the agents telling you?"

To which I responded:

> The responses I've gotten over the last year and a half of querying
> tend to fall into one of these categories:
>
> a) "Nope, not our thing, not interested in your idea for a book". The
> largest number of replies fall into this category. No huge surprise
> there. The resources for authors looking for literary agents let you
> search for agents who represent memoirs, or literary fiction, or young
> adult. They do not let you perform a search for literary agents who
> represent LGBTQ coming-out stories. Hence I could either do a lot of
> research and narrow down the pool of potential agents and then send my
> queries or I could just send my queries to the next batch of people
> who represent memoirs or whatever. The latter is actually faster and
> easier to do as a sort of repetitive chore, semi-automated, like job
> hunting.
>
> b) "Interesting idea, but you need more of a social platform. Who
> will buy your book? You need to become more well-known as an expert
> on the subject". This is the 2nd most common reply, at least to the
> queries that position my book as nonfiction. (It's a nonfiction
> thing; fiction authors don't have the same strong expectation of
> pre-existing fame)
>
> c) "Interesting idea but your implementation of it based on the first
> 5 pages isn't quite what we hoped for, for some vague unspecified
> reason".
>
> d) "It isn't quite right for our small agency's lineup but it's a
> fantastic idea, the world needs books like this, best of luck with it"
>
> e) "We'd really like to publish a book on this topic and I was so
> excited to read your query letter but frankly we don't like your
> writing, it's a disappointment, sorry" (ouch!)
>
> f) "We have to decline to represent your book because it too closely
> resembles one we're representing"



Well, that was on the 19th. In the following weeks I've replayed my last answer several times and thought back on the agents' replies and I've come to realize I have way too many in category E to not take it seriously. The rest can be tossed into a giant hold-all basket labeled "Keep on Querying" but yeah, there are too many agents who say they would have liked to have represented a book matching my description, but they don't like my book. Don't like my writing.



So. I'm doing a major rewrite, first one since March 2013. In that rewrite I was focused on condensing. I had 500 pages and in March 2013 I stripped out event-dead and dead-end bits that I decided I could dispense with and ended up with a 295 page story. It was my second condensation pass (hey, I started out with a 900,000 word autobiography, which is is around 2400 pages when single-spaced).

This rewrite is about narrative action. I'll give you an example of what I mean. Not from my own book but from Wally Lamb's book She's Come Undone.


Here's a brief section of Wally Lamb's writing:

> In those days after I moved back, I raked and bagged leaves, washed
> storm windows, shampooed rugs, took five-mile afternoon walks. I had
> the remains of Mas' painting framed at a fancy art shop for $45 and
> hung it on the stairway wall where my and Dante's wedding picture had
> been. A nice place: in late afternoon, the sun coming through the
> front door window cast a ray, a kind of spotlight, right on it.
>
> In November, I got a part-time job as Buchbinder's Gift and Novelty
> Shop. Mr. and Mrs. Buchbinder were Holocaust survivors, a scowling,
> gray-haired couple with thick accents that required me to make them
> repeat whatever they'd just asked. All day long, they
> heckled-and-jeckled each other and pointed out nitpicky little places
> I'd missed while dusting. That was my job: dusting and watching out
> for shoplifters and "stupit-heads" that might break something. They'd
> hired me for the holiday season, the day after Ronald Reagan was
> elected president.


OK, and now here's a different section from the same Wally Lamb book:


> The clock from downtown struck once. Kippy began to whimper. I
> counted my hearbeats past two hundred, daring myself to speak. "Are
> you in pain?", I finally said.
>
> She kept me waiting. Then a bedside lamp snapped on and Kippy was
> squinting at her clock. "My first day at college", she said. "Shit!"
>
> I grabbed for my Salems before the light went out. "Does it hurt?", I
> asked again. "If there's anything I can do—"
>
> She put the light on again. "I fractured my collarbone," she said.



You see how the first section is telling you what happened by making some generalization and the second excerpt is showing you by narrating it as specific events and specific dialog and not generalizing?

My book has a way higher percentage of the first type of paragraph to the second than Wally Lamb's book does. I've decided that I need more of the second variety if I want to keep my potential agents, and potential readers, engrossed in the story.

I've just finished modifying one of the most important chapters, the one titled JUNIOR HIGH TO HIGH SCHOOL, and then I redid the first chapter from scratch, the one titled CHILDHOOD, as a brief little 4-page recap. I have two more major chapters to do.


Current Query Stats:


The Story of Q (main book) — total queries = 455
Rejections: 361
Outstanding: 93

.. As NonFiction— total queries = 333
.. Rejections: 313
.. Outstanding: 20

.. As Fiction— total queries = 122
.. Rejections: 48
.. Outstanding: 73

Guy in Women's Studies (second book) — total queries = 22
Rejections: 21
Outstanding: 1

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ahunter3: (Default)
We like simplifications when we find ourselves wanting to explain complex things to people who have less need to understand them that we have need for them to have that understanding. Especially if they aren't in our social sciences class and don't need a good grade from us at the end of the semester!

So it's not unsurprising that in explaining gender issues and gender politics and gender identity and whatnot, we've often tended to present it something like this: GENDER ISN'T THE SAME THING AS SEX. SEX IS BIOLOGY. SEX IS THE BODY. GENDER IS SOCIAL AND MENTAL, IT'S IN YOUR HEAD, IT'S ABOUT BEHAVIOR AND IDENTITY, AND IT ISN'T THE SAME THING AS SEX.

That enables us to explain why a person who has, for instance, Xy chromosomes, and the body parts that are conventionally described as penis and testicles, or which would be identified as such by the overwhelming majority of disinterested average people asked to identity them, at any rate, isn't necessarily "a man". Why some of us consider ourselves to be "women" instead. Or genderfluid (perhaps sometimes men, sometimes women, depending on how we feel). Or nonbinary (perhaps not relating to that whole "are you a man or a woman" thing at all). Or some other variation entirely. So we say to our audience of mainstreamish ordinary people, ACCEPT THIS. LET PEOPLE DEFINE THEMSELVES, GENDER-WISE, DON'T ASSIGN THEM BASED ON YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THEIR BODY BITS. BECAUSE GENDER ISN'T THE SAME THING AS SEX. And those of them who are tolerant of diversities and respectful of other folks' experiences often nod and add this to their list of socially appropriate attitudes and, at least in socially liberal diversity-tolerant circles, that becomes The Truth and they themselves begin to correct other folks who conflate sex with gender.

Except, well, it IS a simplification and like all simplifications it is on some occasions an OVERsimplification, one that can make some explanations and elaborations even more complicated. Like when someone asks why, if gender isn't sex, someone with a male body who identifies as a woman wants sex reassignment surgery: isn't that the body? Or when you're trying to explain that yonder person, who identifies as a woman, considers herself to have a clitoris, considers her body to be a female body, even though she was assigned male at birth (AMAB for short) and has Xy chromosomes and body parts that would be identified by the overwhelming majority of other people (who had not been informed otherwise) as penis and testicles and whatnot. We begin retreating from our original distinction, saying things like "Well, actually SEX is also a matter of perception, the interpretation and categorization of the physical is a social process, maleness and femaleness are themselves social constructs". And the people who were on board with the notion that SEX IS BIOLOGY AND GENDER IS SOCIAL look back with glazed eyes and perhaps ask, "So sex and gender are sort of the same thing after all?" and perhaps add, unnecessarily, "... I'm confused!"


Well, what I'm about to do here is probably ALSO an oversimplification on some level, but I think it may be a useful second level that's worth a mental climb that I don't think will be too bad.

First off, yeah, GENDER is social and mental. But is isn't unaffiliated with SEX which is biological and of the body. Gender is basically a set of generalizations (a more loaded term is "stereotypes") based on observed sexual differences. Gender is also affected by other social stuff, factors that aren't strictly biological. For example, social systems tend to try to control individual people's reproductive behaviors, because either too much or too little reproduction can play havoc with resources, and for that matter so can too random versus more narrowly channelled into specific situations. The more that the social system is defensively poised on the edge of a threat to its survival, the more tight this control tends to be. Well, one form that this control takes is the promotion of ideas about what the sexes like and want and what their "nature" disposes them to do, whether in fact those ideas are close reflections of the real actual generalized behavior of those sexes or not. Sexual propaganda, you could call it. You can see how that makes gender MORE than just generalizations about SEX, yes? But for the rest of this discussion, that's just a side issue. For now let's just put an asterisk next to where I said GENDER is a generalization about SEX and the asterisk means there's some distortion involved for various social reasons and now let's go back to the simple bit about generalization.

Here's how generalization renders gender out of sex:

Belief

First, it's BINARY. Because in general there are two sexes and since we're generalizing we ignore the exceptions and we say we have MALE and we have FEMALE. Two dots.

Then we focus on differences. Men are "this way" and women are "that way". We compile a list of characteristics and separate them into male and female. Orange and green. Him over here and her over there. And because he's over here, from his perspective she is in THAT direction, whereas because she's over there, from her perspective he is in THIS direction, and thus the directions THEMSELVES, the over-there-ness versus the over-here-ness, that becomes gendered. In yon direction lies the female characteristics, the feminine stuff. Over thereabouts, that direction means masculine, the male characteristics.

Now let's toss up a less generalized diagram that reflects the same reality but doesn't oversimplify it as much:

Distribution

Here we see two populations, the male population in one color and the female population in another, and we still see an overall tendency, a sense that in general the females are "more over this way" and the males are "more over that way", but we also see that there is overlap. And that makes immediate sense, we all know that some individual women are more this way than others and that any characteristic is manifested some of the time by all of either sex and quite often by some of either sex and so on.

Now comes the fun part. Let's zoom in:

From this Perspective

This is a mostly-green region of the "population" diagram, zoomed in with an orange point circled to draw your attention to it. Let's drop our awareness into that location and look around us and make some generalizations FROM THIS PERSPECTIVE:


• Compared to the diagram as a whole, who "we" are is definitely quite strongly off in a "green direction". Most of the dots who are like us (i.e,. in our general location) are "green".

• Generalizations about "orange" individuals most often won't apply to us. Except for our "orangeness" itself, we don't have much in common with them. When the main body of orange points expresses itself in collective solidarity with the orange direction, we aren't going to feel very included. When the main body of green points does the equivalent, on the other hand, we're likely to say "me too". Except when the subject being discussed is about orangeness or greenness ITSELF, of course.

• In the binary graph, I spoke of a sense of "over-there-ness", a sense for the orange that their relationship to the green involves the green being "over there", in THAT direction. For our isolated orange point in this graph, the green isn't so much "over there" as "right here around me". The other orange points in general, however, THEY are "over there" in a contrasting direction.

• The "green" points will in general have the experience that the color opposite of them (i.e., orange) tends to be in an "over there" (generally leftward) direction. Our isolated orange point is positioned where the color opposite (i.e., green) can also be found to some degree in that same (leftward) direction even though that's mostly contrary to orange-dot experiences.

Now let's translate some of that into how it manifests in the world of gender and identity.


• Even if gender were a pretty accurate generalization about sexual difference (n other words we continue to ignore the "asterisk effects" or we dismiss them as anything more than minor background noise), the distribution model means that there are inevitably feminine malebodied people and masculine femalebodied people. It's not a "deviant behavior", or a "behavior" at all, per se, it's a direct result of distribution with overlap. If you've got distribution with overlap there will BY DEFINITION be such people.

• For masculine malebodied people and feminine femalebodied people, gendered experience tends to be unitary and nonambivalent, and (this is important) THEIR EXPERIENCES are broadcast as the experiences that are expected and anticipated, reinforcing for them the "identification" with other such folks. In other words, not merely "you, male, you're expected to be masculine" but also "you, male, you are expected to find female people to exhibit characteristics in a more feminine direction than your own characteristics" as well as "you, male, are expected to find other male people to exhibit characteristics that are NOT in any particular 'direction' but rather more or less surrounding your own traits". But in contrast...

• For feminine malebodied people and masculine femalebodied people, identity factors are much more convoluted just because of their location in the distribution. Let's consider the masculine femalebodied person. In body she is one of the femalebodied but in a multitude of other characteristics she has more in common with the other masculine people, so that's the first tier of non-unitary identity factors. Then there's the comparison of her experiences with the experiences broadcast as the expected and anticipated: the other femalebodied voices say that malebodied people are more masculine, but that's not generally true of her own experience, although some malebodied people may be more so. The other masculine voices say that the opposite sex (females for the males, males for the females) are more feminine, but for her the opposite sex will have characteristics more clustered around her own traits, although again there will be some for whom that is true.

• It would be an oversimplification (yet again) to say that people in that kind of situation EITHER identify with those of the same biological SEX or ELSE identify with those who have the same constellation of characteristics. Both of those are possibilities, definitely, but the identification experiences are in conflict and hence non-unitary, and that opens up many other possibilities. Continuing with our masculine femalebodied person, she may react to the discrepancy by feeling neither more akin to other femalebodied people nor to other masculine people but instead identifying in a more finely granular way with other masculine femalebodied people. Or she may reject the binary either/or propositions inherent in the identity question and identify mostly with people of any sex and any personality characteristic set who also feel alienated by the whole sex-and-gender thing. If she identifies with the other masculine folk, the fact that she is femalebodied and is perceived as such may be experienced as an obstacle to that identity; it may have more to do with other folks' perceptions (the expectations that are part of the backdrop of broadcasted gendered experiences), or it may mostly focus on her own desire to resemble the people she has identified with and to feel validated in that identity, but either way her SEX as perceived by her becomes intertwined with the process of identification and come to be regarded as wrong and in need of alteration. That alteration in turn may involve modifications at the level of behavioral presentation or may involve body modifications at the physical level. If her reaction to the overall situation takes the form of rejecting the binary categorization, she may similarly seek to modify either presentation or body, but seeking an indeterminable or neutral representation of SEX rather than male or female.

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ahunter3: (Default)
In my previous entry, I mostly just quoted the review in its entirety and then sat there basking in the praise. You can't blame me! ** sits here rereading the review again while drinking my coffee **

I will however note that there were two comments that pointed to possible changes or worrisome considerations, which I'll address here.

* The indistinct time frame: it struck me as a valid point that despite an occasional mention of the year in later chapters, all through the childhood section the reader is left to guess when all this is taking place. Combined with the comment from Alicean Brick, the previous reviewer, in which it was pointed out that I need to punch up more awareness of when this was taking place and remind (or educate) the reader about what-all was taking place w/regards to gender politics and etc and hence the cutting-edge nature of what I was trying to write about and say to people (i.e., the writings and other behaviors that got me locked up), this is an additional opinion that I need to do a better job of grounding my story in time. I've done some of that now, entering some additional mentions throughout the book of what year it is and in some cases snippets of what else was going on in the world. I want to do more of this, especially snippets of information about what might have been taking place with regards to gender politics alongside of what was going on with me in these various chapters and sections.

* Taking a long time growing up: although the reviewer said it wasn't necessarily a problem -- "Everything you included seems interesting and relevant, so I couldn't tell you what (if anything) to cut" -- it was at least surprising enough to generate comment that so much of my book was focused on the years before I had grown up. I've actually given myself several days to contemplate that and mull it over. I wanted to write about the years in which these gender issues became intrusive and problematic for me. At each stage I wanted the reader to be able to see how the situation had developed, based on a combination of understanding from the previous bits how I was as a person going into the situation and then reading what happened and how I'd felt, how I'd reacted, and how people around me had reacted in turn. Of a 300 page book,
the first 18 pages are childhood, the next 112 are junior high and high school (hence adolescence), for total of 130 so far, and the rest of 300 pg book are early adulthood, culminating in my attempted coming-out at 21 as a university student. I suppose the bottom line is that if the book loses entertainment value (or impact) in some fashion for dwelling too much on my early life, it's a problem, but for the moment I'm inclined to think (and hope) along with my reviewer that "everything seems interesting and relevant" and not worry about it unless other folks identify it as a worrisome concern.


In other news: on a gender-related forum it was mentioned that the GenderBread diagram (mentioned also by alicean brick, my first reviewer) has been pointed to and its author accused of plagiarism.

That's an item of some controversy (a counter-argument has been made that the original diagram had been made available for adaptive public use by anyone who thought it would be helpful) and for the moment at least I'm going to skip making any further comment on the plagiarism angle. I'll say this much about the diagram itself: I think it makes a useful introduction of the complexity and multi-faceted nature of the topic, especially if one were addressing a group of students or other people where a decently large percentage of the audience would have most likely thought in more simplistic terms: either "you are male or you are female, what else is there?" or perhaps "you are male or female and you are straight or you're gay, what else is there?". I do NOT regard the diagram as comprehensive (not that comprehensive is even necessarily a possibility). For example, on the "Attracted To" pole, the GenderBread 2.0 diagram offers two arrows, both of them starting with "Nobody" and stretching towards, respectively, "Men/Males/Masculinity" and "Women/Females/Femininity". Then below that, "5 (of infinite) possible plot and label combos" reading "straight", "gay", "pansexual", "asexual", and "bisexual". The author is obviously aware of that the graph isn't comprehensive there, but I'll take this opportunity to point out that there's a problem with a single arrow that treats attraction to "Men" as conterminous with an attraction to "Males" or even "Masculinity", and likewise concatenating an attraction to "Women" with attraction to "Females" and to "Femininity". Just as one's own gender expression may diverge from one's biological sex and gender identity, one's attaction to another may have multiple dimensions which don't overlap in the most conventional / expected ways. Joanna Russ, author of The Female Man, had her main character, a self-identified Lesbian, pondering these issues:

Once I felt the pressure of her hip-bone along my belly, and being
very muddled and high, thought: She's got an erection.
Dreadful. Dreadful embarrassment. One of us had to be male and it
certainly wasn't me...Does it count if it's your best friend? Does it
count if it's her mind you love through her body? Does it count if
you love men's bodies but hate men's minds? ...Later we got better

If one can BE (for example) a female-bodied person who thinks of himself as a man, one can be attracted to female-bodied men. Or one's attraction could mostly have to do with the biological sex (female people) and could include such people regardless of gender identity and expression. Or, as is the case for many younger folks I've spoken with, attraction is mostly around one or more genders that the person has a sexual affinity for, regardless of the biological sex of that person's body.

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ahunter3: (Default)
I have several readers holding a copy of my book, having promised me feedback, and I have material back from some of them now.


Alicean Brick, an editorial assistant who describes herself as genderfluid, volunteered to be an advance reader, and gave me these comments , and gave me permission to share them:




(Alicean Brick comments in italics, with my own comments interspersed)


(She writes): Are you familiar with the genderbread person diagram?




I would suggest that YOUR diagrams and theories be illustrated in the printed version.





The genderbread diagram (in my opinion) is a much better diagram for introducing a wider gender theory than those I've seen used elsewhere.


Most of the expanatory diagrams I'd seen as of 1979-80 were far simpler, far more reductionistic things: the one-dimensional Kinsey 1-6 scale (gay to straight), for example.


As far as my own diagrams...in the "Humans and Sexuality" class I was enrolled in Spring of 1980, there was a diagram that looked sort of like this:
HSbook

Although it wasn't overtly stated that way in the book, what I got from the diagram that the same personality or behavioral characteristics (left hand side characteristics) that would make a male person straight would make a female person gay and the characteristics (right hand side characteristics) that would make a female person straight would make a male person gay. So in my own paper later, I drew two diagrams of my own: first this one, which ALSO made some non-explicit assertions (that opposites would attract, all across the spectrum);
allan01
then THIS one which illustrated a social force that I felt was in effect, that defined heterosexuality in terms of one narrow band and tried to extinguish those who did not fall on it:
allan02

Anyway, yeah, I've been thinking I do want to incorporate more of what it was that I was trying to say back in 1980. Ideally, I'd like the reader to finish the BACK TO UNIVERSITY chapter (the climactic chapter) thinking that A, yes, I had upset people at the time because they did not understand what I was trying to say, but B, not because what I was trying to say was nonsense-babble; that it was actually cutting-edge gender theory considering the timeframe, even if it wasn't expressed very clearly; and that part of why people reacted as they did was that the content was disturbing to them, which ALSO played a role in their failure to understand: many of them were backing away from it, squirming.



Continuing with Alicean Brick's comments.






Some readers may have a difficult time grasping what a contrarian or anarchist you would have been considered at the time by our prevalent views and cultural norms in that era. It was good that you mentioned examples of other people who had been locked up for seemingly no good reason. your references to what politics and current events were going on at that time help put things into perspective. I would give further examples throughout the book of cultural clashes between gender variant folk and government or society as a backdrop that would illustrate what a deviant you would have been considered at the time and to illustrate what a precarious tight rope you walked on.


your older readers will get this if they remember that time period but it will be missed by your younger readers who will have no recollection of those times. you should amplify the fact that by choosing to be true to yourself and by being who you wanted to be , you were risking your life as well as the image and reputation of family and friends.


you were no doubt a person of great conviction and very brave or daring to be open at that time about who you were. I would like your readers to fully understand this as I think that your story hinges on it.


I'm sure that you could easily pull up some news stories from that period of gender variant people being beaten, abused, slandered and mishandled by the authorities. sprinkled throughout the book this would illustrate the cultural minefield that you bravely crossed.






That struck me as being a very good suggestion. First off, yeah, it helps position the book's timeframe in general, and lest there be some readers who around this point wonder why I didn't just hie myself off the local Albuquerque LGBTQ center and explain my situation, it could be really useful to bring to mind what the awareness-level of the culture was in 1980, both the general population and that of the gay-lesbian-etc subculture that would have been available to me at the time.


Some notes I made, insufficient for me to begin a revamp of that chapter, but with that intent in mind:


* Dan White had shot and killed Harvey Milk and George Moscone in 1978; in 1979, Dan White was found guilty not of murder but merely of manslaughter. His trial gave rise the phrase "twinkie defense"; his defense attorney said he wasn't in his right mind at the time.


* Renee Richards, the M2F transgender tennis player, had recently won the right to compete in tennis tournaments. Her book SECOND SERVE was not out yet, though, and would not make its debut until 1983. Some opponents warned us that if she were allowed to compete in women's events there would be a mad rush by male tennis players to get sex change operations so they could compete against women for women's tournament prize money.


* The term "trangender" itself made ITS debut in 1979. For me and most other people, the term in use was "transsexual" and it was definitely hard-wired to the expectation that you wanted to change your body.


* The 1979 March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights was one of the first major event-occasions where the "umbrella" was explicitly extended to include trans people. In the years leading up to it, the issue was very much up in the air, with some gay and lesbian activists opposing the inclusion. Some felt it made the movement too much of a circus and would delay general-public acceptance, and some lesbian feminist activists in particular did not want to extend the umbrella of FEMINISM's definition of "woman" to include male-to-female transfolk. Jan Raymond's book THE TRANSSEXUAL EMPIRE was publishes in 1979, in fact.


If you readers happen to think of some highly relevant events that happened in 1979 or very early 1980, add some to the list!





And then finally some feedback about the emotional content of the early section:



I'm rereading the childhood section and it really seems very lifeless and flat. Im not seeing much on your reactions to being teased Or how you were treated. Did you cry or if not I think you need more on how those situations made you feel. How each one was another piece of your confidence or self esteem getting chipped away. What were you thinking in the morning before going to school? Did you dread the thought of walking into class? What did those feelings feel like? Did it make you nervous? Did other kids or adults see fear in your face? Did your pulse race or your speech stammer? What was the reaction of the other kids when they teased you? How could they tell they were getting through to you. Did you cower or run. I seem to be missing the whole fabric of emotions from the adults to you and the other kids.


While you were being teased what were your thoughts and feelings? While being teased did you reflect on or have flashbacks to previous times that you have been singled out? While being teased what did you fear happening in the moment, that you would be kicked out of school? Would your parents be ashamed of you? That kids would beat you on the playground or attack you after school on the way home?


I know we have all been in that situation before but as the reader I need to be shown how it made you feel.







Three things, quickly:

a) In my childhool, a good portion of the time my reaction was basically a nonplussed WTF?? sort of thing. I've tried to conjure up a solid sense of me and my head at the time, and the out-of-nowhere nature of some of the behaviors that I encountered.


b) I actually do have sections in the CHILDHOOD chapter that aren't exactly lacking in both emotional and cognitive content, once these events had sort of built up to a critical mass and gotten me worried as well as scraped raw.


c) If my manuscript comes across as lifeless and flat (or the first chapter of it does, which is 98% as bad), that's a problem, but I want to see further feedback to see if that turns out to be a general assessment. I think it may be a matter of style. I hope to post more review material from other readers.

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