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Waldell, aka Pricess WaWa, is a bitter black gay femme, or so he would like to have us believe. Queen Called Bitch is his story.

It is a story told to us by a most erudite and expansively loquacious narrator, delivered in elegant but not particularly linear style. Waldell often begins in the middle with an excursion into his attitudes and feelings about a character before looping back to describe his history with that person. This is not a narrative of consecutive events arranged along a plot line, but more akin to what you might hear if you found Waldell at the bar and plied him with a couple shots (no more, please, he's a lightweight) and bribed the bartender to cue up Reba on the sound system for atmosphere and encouraged him to unload his tale.

An identity that includes being both gay and femme tends to be complicated: our society prefers to subsume them into each other, equivocating between gender factors and sexual orientation. Waldell doesn't specifically write as a feminine person without reference to being gay -- indeed, I'm not sure any gay male who is feminine can easily untangle that knot -- but he snarks a bit about meeting people on Grindr, "guys who think I'm a woman or beg me to be more masculine. Guys who are interested in a part time 'tranny' for play. I am neither of those things" -- writing from a feminine but not trans vantage point. "I pee standing up", he confirms.

He was a pariah in school, surviving the typical harassment doled out to sissy gay guys, but found some supportive teachers and eventually a road to connection and acceptance via the theatrical department at nearby Longwood University. He'd long since gotten in the habit of finding validation and voltage in music, television soap operas, dramatic movies, and God.

An easy and confident spirituality without shame was his to hold onto. As soon as he became old enough to notice church-based condemnation of gay people, he relegated that, along with its moldy misogynistic ideas about women, to the discard pile. The God stuff was about the inner feeling, and he had no significant doubts about that.

Queen Called Bitch is billed on the frontispiece of the manuscript as a work of fiction, complete with disclaimers about the coincidental nature of any resemblance to real people -- a time-honored confabulation used by many writers who choose to write about themselves and their own lives. But of course my own source of information about the author /character is this book, so I can't really know that, can I? And yet, I can't help thinking I do, and because of that I also find myself projecting and psychologically assessing him, making of his story something other than what he asserts of it. I don't find the cynical darkness to which he aspires, but instead see bitterness embraced as a protection, an attempt to avoid setting himself up for disappointment and heartbreak.

He's not so alone in this world: a good portion of the story revolves around the foursome of friends, the beforementioned Carol (Cann), Karen, Waldell himself, and Derek Island, and the everyday soap operas of their lives and their connections with each other.

The centerpiece is the delicately vulnerable romance between Waldell and Derek. Waldell the author shares this tale of romantic misery and thwarted love and would have us believe it was unrequited, this being the core of his broken-hearted bitterness. But as reader, I kept perceiving Waldell the character as wanting but being unwilling to believe it could be had, and second-guessing his opportunities in favor of reconciling himself in sporadic bursts of self-protective hesitation. Hence, this kind of exchange on the cellphone screen:

Me: You know I have feelings for you

Derek: I have some for you, was that not clear?

Me: I can't believe you have feelings for me. I never would have guessed. Honestly.

Derek: I've told you


Derek Island is leaving town and Waldell plots and schemes about how he is going to take the risk -- now or never -- of collecting on his first and most-wanted kiss, but he gets cold feet and a non-kiss ensues.

He's more inclined to air his grievances to Derek about how Derek does not reciprocate his feelings, building the narrative between the two of them to the effect that Derek mistreats Waldell, that Waldell is the person with the feelings. But he finds the feelings easiest to express in a forlorn mode:

Derek: I miss you my friend

Me: I can't talk to you


It is one of the minor passing characters in the story, Latesha, who gets to voice what seems apparent to me about these star-crossed novice lovers: she, who, Waldell notes, had witnessed the Derek saga firsthand, predicts to him that "one day the stars will align for you and Derek".

Queen Called Bitch, a coming-of-age and coming-of-want tale from NineStar Press. Waldell Abraham Goode

(cc: GoodReads)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT A:

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

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


PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT B:

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

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

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

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

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



PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT C:


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

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


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

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

Other Person: Your straight and you like women

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT D:


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

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

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

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




** ahem ** [clears throat]

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

• being in a male body

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

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

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


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


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"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.

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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.

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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


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Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
To refer to myself as "transgender" or "genderqueer" is a bit like referring to a tortilla chip as a "corn chip".

It isn't WRONG; a tortilla chip really is a corn chip, that's what it's made out of. The problem is that when you say "corn chip", people's minds immediately jump to Fritos, not Tostitos.



On the transgender and genderqueer groups and message boards, I so often feel like serious Special Snowflake Syndrome, constantly posting and reposting my identity, reminding people that "hey over here, don't forget about me & hypothetical others like me, I was a girl in a boy body, no dysphoria, not transitioning, don't need anything fixed except society's expectations that male bodied people are always boys".

When I identify as transgender, it isn't incorrect—I have a gender that is not the one I was assigned at birth—but the connotation for most people is that I therefore feel *trapped in a male body* or that I would wish to present as female and pass as female, and for more people than not, it will be assumed that I have transitioned, intend to transition, or wish that I could transition surgically to correct my body so that it matches my gender.

"Genderqueer" is a more variable term; it should make it easier to be one of a half-dozen specific flavors of genderqueer and I could feel less like a tortilla chip in a bag labeled "corn chips". But in practice I'm finding from my participation on the genderqueer groups that I've still got a corn chip problem. I'm very unusual in that community for considering myself to have a sex (or "physical identity" or "morphology" or "phenotype") and also a gender, the two not being one and the same.

Other genderqueer folks tend to be genderfluid (boy days and girl days) or bigender (does anyone else read that as "big ender" as if GenderLilliput 's other island would have "little enders" or something?) or agender, or are somewhere along a continuum-spectrum such as demiboy or demigirl. They are mostly nonbinary: they reject the oversimplified "two possible categories" system of male (or men) and female (or women). Well, I do, too, but in my understanding of myself I am using binary categories, I'm just applying them to two, not merely one, axis. I have a physical axis in which I am a malebodied person and I have a psychological-behavioral and personality axis in which I am a girl or woman or feminine persona. Heck, I don't even know if that makes me nonbinary or binary. Quaternary or Tetragonal, maybe?

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ahunter3: (Default)
So if you've been reading these things, you've probably got some idea of how I perceive myself: kinda sweet, bit on the prim side, warm and loving when people open up to me and share, a bit reserved otherwise, serious and righteous in a confidently cheerful sort of way... Sexually more of a reactive person than an initiator, shy about my appetite, not a prude about casual sex but prefer sex with an emotional connection, cautious about sex if I don't feel understood and appreciated, naughty but not dirty, playful and inclined towards mutual teasing more than full-on power conflict in my erogenous interactions, require emotional safety and trust to be with someone that way. Basically a pretty typical good-girl-grown-up sort of person, albeit incidentally male.

Not really your conventional poster-person for the whip and chain scene.

Hey, I used to laugh at that stuff. About how so many people would gravitate towards such a narrow and almost ritualistic uniform set of behaviors and appearances and whatnot. A fetish fetish! You know, how it's not merely about pain, it's about the giving and receiving of pain with a small and specific set of devices, those spanking paddles and those BDSM whips. Not ice picks or pliers or hot match heads. And just LITTLE pain, soft little whacks. And how it's not merely about power and restraint and semi-involuntary sexual experiences, it's about the restraining of people with the same silly little velcro cuffs to tie your partner to the bedpost and the silly stuff about 'master' this and 'mistress that' and the person being tied up is having done to them exactly what they want, or as much of it as they can get the other person to do, yeah right, domination and submission. And those silly clothes, the Victoria's Secret meets Goth Girl underwear and black leather and high heel shoes, let's all dress that way, sure. That's the impression I had of BDSM from the bits and pieces of it that had been exposed to the light of the vanilla-world day, and yes I giggled at it and no I didn't picture myself getting involved in it.


Hmm. Well. SOME people reading the above paragraph are no doubt nudging their friends and partners and saying "He should have been at that dungeon scene last Friday, with the lawn darts and the cattle prods and the human corsetting... 'little' pain indeed". Indeed, nudging their friends and partners with something sharp and pokey, or perhaps hitting them with something heavy and thuddy. It's true, my sense of what BDSM was like was heavily influenced by people playing around the very edges of it, sort of the precursors to the Fifty Shades of Grey folks, and oh yes there are people whose seriousness for pain and power-play aren't quite so trivial. The costumes are considerably more varied, too, by the way.

But that doesn't really explain what I'm doing there. I may have been laughing dismissively at BDSM for their little pats and taps and their little velcro wrist cuffs, but it wasn't because I was craving a good bashing with a baseball bat or wanted to penetrate my partner with a potato peeler or anything. And as for power play, I've always been a radical egalitarian, fervently committed to absolute equality, no way you'd find me seeking out domination and submission, uh uh. The everyday world is already overly full of the eroticization of power over other people, polarized gender roles manifesting as male domination and female submission, and me, I'm trying to get AWAY from all that! And nope, don't need no pointy red high heel on my throat or some dominatrix bossing me around, either, I had my share of bossy authoritarian coercive adults as a militant children's libber, nope, what I want is trust and intimacy and open honest sharing of feelings, THAT'S what I get off on.

Well, folks, a funny thing happens in the gently carpeted hallways of the Nice. I first intuited it back during my first run at being a college student, when I was on a life-plan path that would have required me to spend a decade or longer in school working towards professionalism, without necessarily including any girlfriend until far later:

> Why on earth had I thought it would be a good idea to go to the
> University of Mississippi? To join the AIR FORCE for a scholarship?
> To tie myself to what looked like a decade of financial dependence on
> my parents? To live in this stuffy old-fashioned place and never meet
> any girls until I graduate eons from now with an advanced graduate
> degree making me a professional, since there are no jobs for people
> with a bachelors' degree in astronomy (what, they're going to pay you
> to look at the stars?), learning lots of math and physics (yeah THAT'S
> a real good fit for my talents and interests)? So that when I finally
> get a professional degree, after, of course, repaying my debt to the
> AIR FORCE by doing a stint of active service for a year or two (oh
> yeah, military me, for sure) maybe some stuffy well-dressed girl will
> marry me if I support her financially, and then she'll let me do it to
> her.

It may not be immediately obvious in the context of that paragraph, but the most worrisome image there is that of the partner who participates in sex as a kind of largesse, a dispensation to the deserving, a favor, perhaps a kindness, perhaps a more hard-nosed exchange but at any rate not participating in it for her own reasons, her own cravings and selfish wants.

And it took awhile for me to fully realize it but THIS is one of the most important areas for equality and reciprocity: I don't want it doled out to me as an act of generosity or as a gift, I want to experience someone's hunger, I want them wanting to do stuff to me because THEY get off on doing stuff to me. Oh, I'll reciprocate, you'd better believe it, I am so there with reciprocity on that. I crave my partner's responsive tinglings and I want to play with her nerve endings and make her hungrier and hornier and I want to tease and torment her and experience her appetite. Oh my... we're sort of talking about POWER here, aren't we? But but but, hey wait a minute, this paragraph started out being focused on equality!!

Paradoxically, yes, that's how it works. Power exchange can be a delightful and delicious sharing of vulnerability and appetite, experiencing being wanted and being had and done unto, stripped of self-control or stripping one's partner of theirs, and the path away from gender-specific rigid power dichotomies, if one wishes neither to be a sexual commodity on tap nor someone whose appetites are condescendingly catered to, leads not so much to some kind of sanitized NiceLand in which power plays no role but instead to an acknowledgement that it IS always going to be there but that it can be played with, openly spoken of, and deployed for mutual pleasure in a fashion that fosters mutual trust.

Right off the bat, front and dead center to my own gender concerns and experiences and considerations, the BDSM environment lets me opt out of being the sexual "prime mover", the heavy, the person doing the butch-role thing, the initiator. Unlike the overwhelming majority of possible sexual contexts, here's a place where it can be directly tossed onto the table as a new rule for a new game: you top me, OK? It need not be for always and forever, although it could be (it could be set up as a defining rule of all subsequent play, or of the relationship in its entirety; but it can also be a "tonight's rule" sort of thing).

I like relationships where we can talk about power, and I like being able to talk about power without it necessarily having to be one of those ponderous theoretical excursions into social analyses and discussions of patriarchal hegemony and whether an egalitarian impulse can survive the deterministic overarching environment and so on and so forth.

Oh, it's not a perfect panacea, don't get me wrong. I have attended kink events as someone who is clearly a male-bodied person and found that prior to any negotiations of who is doing what to whom, one still has to connect and express interest, and yes there is still a distinctive disproportional expectation that the male-bodied people will seek out those initial connections. I don't want to corrupt the minds of any similar male feminine people by leading them to think that if they attend a BDSM event there will be gangs of dommy women approaching them with deliciously malicious intent. It could happen, but the BDSM world is merely a place where power arrangements can be negotiated, it's not a world insulated and isolated from gendered expectations.

Anyway, yeah... BDSM has its usefulness for gender variant people. Oh, and I've discovered it can be fun being poked with sharp pointy things, especially if the person weilding them enjoys provoking your reactions. *blush*

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ahunter3: (Default)
I hear some people occasionally wondering how, and why, transgender people ended up affiliated with gay and lesbian and bisexual folks, pointing out that gender identity is really a separate consideration from sexual orientation. I imagine it happened sort of like this: lots of people, when they encounter someone who appears to be of one sex but who exhibits lots of signs and sends lots of signals associated with the other sex, assume the reason, or purpose, of those gender-nonconforming behaviors, is that that person is gay.

I chose the words "reason or purpose" intentionally: a purpose indicates an intentional act, while a reason implies an explanation, and both of those get applied to this thinking some of the time. As "reason", the thinking goes something like this: "being sexually attracted to guys when you yourself are a guy is a way of being more like girls; that is, being sexually attracted to guys is something that mostly happens to girls; so this person is gay as part of a general tendency to be more like girls". (Or mirror-image of that for lesbians). As "purpose", the thinking runs more along these lines: "acting and dressing and behaving like a guy when you are actually a girl is a way of trying to resemble the people that most girlfolks are sexually attracted to (i.e., guys), so that they'll think of you in sexual terms; you do that to signal that you are a lesbian and want to have sex with other girls". (Or mirror-image of that for gay guys).

So mainstream hetero people would mentally categorize transgender people as gay as a consequence of this kind of thinking.

Gay and lesbian people themselves, I think, weren't immune to that kind of assumption, at least at first, before transgender people had come out to them fairly often and in significant detail: "OK so you want to change your body to fit your gender identity, that's cool with me" could shift to perplexity in cases where the transitioning person was (for example) transitioning to male and then planned on living as a gay male afterwards: "Huh? Then why bother? What are you doing it for?" Certainly the surgery clinicians and psychologists were making assumptions that collapsed orientation with gender identity: to be a good candidate, you were supposed to aspire to be a very NORMAL person of the sex to which you were transitioning, and that meant being postoperatively heterosexual, didn't it?

Therefore, I tend to imagine that a lot of initial coming-out self-revelations by transgender people were made to gay and lesbians people. Because, having been pigeonholed along with them, it made sense to seek understanding there, to find resources and support there and so on; but to get that understanding, some explaining was going to have to take place



All that is kind of prologue.


You see, I consider myself to be in the same kind of situation except that I'm grouped with trans people, because I seem (both from the outside and sometimes from among trans people themselves) to fit the description, but I feel different from most of you. And I don't feel understood in the absence of coming out and explaining a bit. Coming out to you as part of a smaller minority the same way transgender people have been a minority within the LGBT community.

One thing I want to say before I go any further is that it is hard for anyone to talk to a group about how they're different from the others in the group without a risk of it sounding like they're saying "YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG, THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE". If I come across to you, reading this, as if I'm prescribing MY gender identity as some kind of improvement over yours, can you give me the benefit of the doubt and try not to take it that way?



OK, one of the biggest differences I feel when I'm discussing this stuff with trans people is "passing". A very large percent of the message-board posts on trans boards is about passing. Do I look like the sex that I'm transitioning to? Here's my latest selfie, do I look like a member of that sex to you? Where can I get this or that garment or piece of equipment or device to make me look more like that sex? And so on. Me, I don't want to pass. It is not my intention to be seen and thought of as a cisgendered female person. I'm a male girlish person. I want to be seen as a male girlish person. I want to be understood and accepted as a male girlish person, or, when that's not an option, to be hated and reviled and despised and detested as a male girlish person.

Being a male person is part of who I am. I do not hate my body. I do not have dysphoria. Being male is not something I need to fix. I have some nice skirts and some purses I use when I wear them, and they are expressions of my girlness and it feels good to wear them in public, proud of who I am. But I do not have any bras. I do have a pretty dense collection of facial hair. I like it; it's pretty and it grew there naturally and I never wanted to shave it off, nor do I want to pluck it out.

Being a girl person, of course, is what was perceived by most people as the part that was WRONG. As a male I'm supposed to be a BOY person. I am to be pitied, considered pathetic. I'm believed to have always fervently wished to more closely resemble those masculine creatures who inhabit the other male bodies. Of course you're nodding, of course you know how that goes, THAT'S WHY I'M IN HERE, PART OF THIS COMMUNITY, to be among my own kind, as much as that is a possibility, and yeah, this is ground zero dead center home base of what we've got in common. I most certainly do not want to be a boy person, I am proud of being one of the girls, proud of remaining who I am in the face of the hostility and ridiculous pressures and hatefulness directed towards girlish male folk. That certainly doesn't need fixing either!

But we aren't all alike in here. And I need to feel understood in order to be able to feel fully accepted. I'm not transitioning. I'd like to get the world to transition towards understanding that males can sometimes be girls as well as boys, and that that's OK. But me, I'm fine where I am, stubborn and unchanging.


And now, some comments about language and terms. I don't want to behave all super-triggery-sensitive or make you think I'm going to lash out at you and accuse you of horribly damaging uses of words that hurt my feelings, but yeah, some of the ways that some of you trans folks use certain terms does kind of make me squirmy and uncomfortable. Let's start with "female" versus "woman" and "male" versus "man". To me they're the specific versions of "sex" versus "gender", and although I acknowledge that it's sometimes a bit of an oversimplification to say that sex is the body (chromosomes, organs, biology) and gender is the identity (personality, the real self), it will do as shorthand. So a woman or girl is someone who identifies as such, and a man or boy is someone who identifies in that manner instead, and they are NOT just by-products of our SEX, our physical equipment. But I keep seeing people describe themselves as (for example) a transgender FEMALE or speak of being a real MALE inside when they are referring to the internal self and not their current physical configuration.

I can see how that would make sense to someone who (for example) intends to transition and become female, but that kind of thing makes me feel a little bit erased. It is very liberating TO ME to have language that makes it possible for me to explain that I have a body of one sex but the gender that usually goes with the other — male, girl — and from my vantage point when I hear or read trans people eliding any difference between "female" and "woman" (or girl) it strikes me as a threat to my ability to say that and be understood. It muddies the water. In an ideal world there would seldom be a need to draw such attention to one's biological plumbing, but we aren't IN that ideal world and I, for one, still need to be able to speak about my situation and draw attention to it as one that needs social consideration.

In an ideal world we wouldn't be pigeonholed into little categories, but in order to speak against the pigeonholing process you often have to identify the category you're in and speak about how the categorial treatment that's tied to it is unfair and oppressive.

Look, I'm not the language police or anything, but I'm letting you know how it rubs me when I read that kind of thing. If you want to disagree, by all means write up a response, and I promise to read it with thoughtful consideration.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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ahunter3: (Default)
So I've written this book about being a male person who is akin to male-to-female transgender folks except that I don't think I'm in the wrong body and am not trying to pass for "female" so much as be understood as "girl in male body". And about being attracted to female people but specifically AS a girlish rather than boyish-persuasion kind of male, and how that's different from heterosexuality and all that.

Now, as you may have noticed, this specific gender & sexual-orientation identity is not a "Thing" in our society at the moment. When I've asked people if they think my book would be redundant because this is already well-established and people with that sense of self are all over the place already, they say "Nope, that's definitely not already said-and-done and nope, kinda rare, that particular configuration".

Maybe too rare. What (you may well be wondering) is the basis for me thinking there's anything akin to a population of like-minded, similarly-experienced people who would read my book and identify with it? Why ought I to think I'm some kind of vanguard for an entire gender/orientation identity? What if, instead, I was a person who was a boy by day and a girl by night and was sexually attracted only to androgynous-looking people who flirt by night but consummate by day? I mean, at some point it becomes just my own personal unique turn-on or special-snowflake sense of identity, yes?


There are two factors that I believe play into why there isn't really much of a social presence for this sexual-invert identity I'm trying to talk up.

ONE: Personality itself. My partner Anais_PF heard me describe this one and it really "clicked" for her. Visualize my mostly-opposite corollary person for a moment: female bodied, has a very boy-identified past and in both personality and behavior is more like one of the guys than one of the other girls. And is attracted to male-bodied people albeit not necessarily the most conventionally masculine amongst them. Such women are not shy about their existence. They may not be melded into what you'd think of as a "movement" constituted around that specific identity, but they are a visible component of other more general movements and expressions of identity.

Feminism doesn't enshrine traditionally manly characteristics but it embraces the notion of even-handed fairness and hence the idea that if it is good for male people to exhibit certain characteristics, they must be equally admirable in women even if social norms and values say otherwise. And although the political consideraton of women's oppression and the demand for a level playing field have made feminism attractive over the years to a wide spectrum of women, we DO have a stereotyped notion of a woman of a certain personality who finds feminist sentiments particularly and personally validating, these being the women who proudly defy expectations of feminine daintiness and delicacy. Robust women. Some of whom, of course, are lesbians, confirming a certain expectation associated with those behaviors and expressions of personality; but some of whom, even if they aren't loudly distancing themselves from their lesbian cohort, are definitely NOT. Their not-lesbianism is often manifest in their critical assessment of male behavior, the complaints of women who at least potentially find male people attractive, were that maleness not quite so entangled with those males being MEN.

Yeah, OK, now consider us. Our situation is comparable, mirror-image, but being outspoken and confrontational about expectations is not merely a response to a situation; being outspoken and confrontational are also behaviors that reflect personality attributes to some extent, and so are the expections that are BEING defied, THEMSELVES. Visualize a roomful of males who, by our definition, are not feeling well-described by the masculine gender stereotype of personality characteristics. The robust women in the other room are defiantly tough confrontational women reacting to the definitional expectation that they be dainty and delicate, but in this room we have guys reacting to the definitional expectation that we be noisy boisterous aggressive tough guys, guys who are reacting to that because that description does not fit us. See the problem?


TWO: The, Umm, Being Coy Problem. Y'all remember the post about the "nice guys", the fellows who are perceived as manipulative whiners, guys who complain that women don't "give them sex" as rewards for being nice but instead "give sex" to guys who treat them horribly and all that? Well, as I said, those guys are sort of us and sort of not (and I've both acknowledged the overlap and made some rather emphatic distinctions). Let's take this opportunity to rephrase and reshape the expectations: not that women would "give us sex", because sex is not a commodity that females possess and for which males are the consumers; and not that we would get a "reward" for being "nice" because being "nice" is a personality characterisic, or a constellation of them, an aspect of who we are, and not some kind of favor we're doing women (or for that matter, anyone else).

If there's something we expect, or at least hope for, it's probably better expressed as women perceiving us as cute and imagining what they might do to us, what they might want to make us feel. Perceptions of our personality, the, umm, "niceness", might play a part in that. So, not women "giving us sex" but selecting for themselves an opportunity that they visualize themselves as being in charge of, that it is at their initiative and part of their pleasure coming from that dynamic. I would like to suggest to you that if the guys in this room are sort of imagining that, fantasizing about that kind of thing, we're also thinking that if we hang signs around our neck that read "We're hoping you'll do this, oh please DO ME, DO ME!", drawing attention to ourselves as individuals who would kind of, you know, react to that kind of situation with a significant degree of satisfaction and pleasure, that...that ... it's just not DEMURE, ok?? It would likely repel the women we're hoping for. If such scenarios have the possibility of playing out, if this can be a Thing, or even if the guys just maybe THINK it could be... well, the women involved in that scenario are going to want to believe it's their idea, at least to the extent that any really overt expression on our part of the fact that we want this to occur is most likely to be a major turnoff for them.

Yeah. There's no dignity in saying so. Yes, I do feel faintly ridiculous at the moment, thanks for asking.

By staying silent, we are deprived of the benefits of a collective identity, but those of us who need it the most (young ones coming of age and having to figure this out in order to function) would be the least able to speak out, and those in the best position to speak out (people like me who have not only figured it out but are actively IN relationships with people who understand us pretty well, thus have less to lose by being overt instead of coy about being sexually reactive), well, we have less pressing need for our gender and sexual orientation to be widely understood... we've GOT ours, if you see what I mean? And the ones in the middle, who have perhaps developed a sense of self and of their sexual nature that's somewhat congruent with what I've described here, but are still looking for partners in some significant sense of the word, well, the situation asks them to choose between being social activists about it or being viable potential partners.

You do the math.

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ahunter3: (Default)
I take long walks as my primary form of exercise and to clear my head. Yesterday I was around mile 15 of a 25 mile hike down suburban roads in Suffolk County and had noticed a patch of raspberry bushes that still had berries on them, and had stepped off the road to pick and eat some of them.

Another middle-aged white guy came down the same road and veered off in my direction when he saw me there. "Ooh", he said cheerfully, "what brings you here?"

"I'm eating some of these raspberries", I responded, indicating the thicket in front of me.

"Oh, they look delicious! May I try some?"

"Sure! They're nice!"

"Oh, they're divine! I want to eat them up, every one of them!"



There have been several times in my life when someone's sexual attention made me feel like a steak being eyed by a hungry dog, a sense of being drooled over that gives me the creeps; and as with most of those other times, this fellow hadn't said or done anything overt that I could draw attention to ("stop that!" "stop WHAT?"). So I answered cordially while tamping down my revulsion and after a couple more comments he bid me enjoy my raspberries and he went on his way.

As it turned out, his way was the same direction I was walking, and after picking and eating a few more berries I found myself heading out after him, and because I am in good shape and walk fast I realized I was going to overtake him in a bit. I viewed that prospect with distaste: would he think that my doing so indicated that I sought more of the attention he'd given me previously? But then I became annoyed with myself and my reactions. Here I am, a genderqueer trans-whatever sissyboy, and I'm intimidated by the possibility of flirtatious behavior from someone I'm not attracted to? First off, I shouldn't have to put up with being made to feel as if how I am, how I look or behave or whatever, means that I'm fair game for their sexual attentions and don't get to say no to it. But second and more important, that isn't what happened: assuming I'd read his signals correctly, he'd conveyed his interest, I'd managed to convey my lack of reciprocal interest without being a jerk about it, he'd accepted that and moved on. "Get over yourself", I told myself. If and when I caught up to him, maybe we'd speak or maybe just nod, and if he wanted to start a conversation, well, maybe it would be GOOD to have a conversation with a gay guy like that in a context out in the open, outside of LGBTQ meetings and whatnot.

I didn't see him glance back so I wasn't sure if he'd noticed me behind him, but he broke into a jog for awhile despite the blast-furnace midday heat, and I wondered if maybe he didn't want a re-encounter either for some reason.

The road took a bend and a rise and I did not see him for awhile, then when I came to the top I had again lessened the distance considerably. I saw him step away from the road briefly and when he came back he was carrying a branch and using it as a walking stick. Then, after another 5 minutes' of walking and additional lessening of the distance between us, he began nonchalantly flicking the stick around, behind his head, into the other hand, back behind the small of his back, something that could be seen as casual activity like kicking a pine cone down the road but also emphasized the fact that he was carrying a decent-sized stick in his hand. I realized he was nervous about me coming after him, and probably had experiences that gave him plenty of reason to think he needed to be.

I confess to feeling a brief moment's sardonic amusement: "Oh, so now my behavior makes you feel uncomfortable?" But then I thought about what it would be like to have to worry that someone like me would come after him with violent intent, and now I felt bad for not having switched to the other side of the road. I'd been worried only that he might accost me again as I drew near and hadn't considered that coming up behind him as I had could be experienced as threatening.

He turned away from the road to walk into a grassy area to let me either pass by or to follow and confront him. He was prepared to face whatever this was going to be. I passed, nodding briefly. I considered saying something — "I'm not a basher or anything, it's cool" or something of that ilk — but rejected it instantly, figuring if I were to say one word it becomes a much scarier situation for him than if I just pass on by.

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ahunter3: (Default)
On Monday I went again to the GLBT Center trans group in Nassau County, and on Wednesday I attended the much-larger Suffolk County trans group.



This was my third meeting at the Nassau group. They tend to have about six people in attendance on average, counting me and the GLBT center facilitator. On Monday, there were five and two of them were newcomers, young trans people attending for their first time. One was a male to female, in her upper 20s, the other a female to male who looked barely 18 but was probably more like 23. The remaining person (another middle-aged guy who uses male pronouns) had to leave early, leaving me, the two newcomers, and the facilitator.

One advantage of a small group is that in the course of a 2-hour meeting you're generally going to have the opportunity to open up and talk at some length without fighting to interpose yourself into the discussion or worrying that you're taking away time from someone else. So at a certain point midway through the evening I said, "One of the things I find frustrating is that sense of never fitting in. People make a default assumption because I present as male. Some people go on to observe that there's something a bit off about me as a male person and they make a second-tier default assumption about me as an unmanly male. Even in places like this meeting, where on the signup sheet..." (I pointed to the clipboard I'd been handed when I first sat down) "...we're asked to indicate our gender, I found myself twiddling the pen and wondering what to write down. Other entries said 'M2F' and 'F2M'..." (I made momentary eye contact) "... but I don't have a simple term like that for what I am. For me, I'm a male and I present as male and I don't have a problem with the body, my issue is not with the plumbing. It's that when people made an issue of me being too much like the girls when I was a kid, I embraced that proudly, that's who I am. I wrote down 'genderqueer' on the sheet, but that doesn't really say very much. Anyway, I still worry that I'm going to come to meetings and organizations for trans people and still not fit in, that other people there won't related to me or feel comfortable with me there".

Dead silence for several beats. Then the facilitator said something about the "plumbing" being a clever way to put it. More silence. Someone eventually started a new conversation about something they were dealing with, gender accommodations at their work place or acceptance issues with parents. I made an observation or a suggestion. Cool unresponsive faces, more silence.

A lot of what was going on with me by that point was within me, of course. No one was saying I didn't belong there. It was a very small group and the two others there (aside from the facilitator) were young and attending for their first time. One disadvantage of a small group is that someone can really put you on the spot if they say something you don't know how to respond to. There may be no one else there to fill up the awkward silence and your own lack of response comes across differently than it would in a room full of people.

So it would be unfair to attribute my feelings to my specific gender identity and conclude from their behavior that I really don't fit in among trans people, but yes, that's how it felt.


On Wednesday for the first time I made the longer and more inconvenient trek out to Bay Shore to attend the Suffolk trans group. My partner anais_pf kindly lent me her car and cancelled her own tentative plans so that I could. I fought through rush-hour traffic and got there a half hour early.

Another group was using the meeting room so the receptionist invited me to hang out in the computer room until the meeting time. I logged in and poked around on LiveJournal and other sites but soon became more interested in checking out the titles of the books on their bookshelf. (Andrew Tobias, Martha Shelley, Guy de Maupassant, Jill Johnston. Fiction with gay or lesbian characters. Travel advice for gay and lesbian people.)

A couple of young people came into the room, in mid-conversation. I found myself feeling awkward, intrusive (even though I'd been there in the room first), potentially perhaps an older creepy person or a person sufficiently different in sexual orientation or gender than whatever had brought them to the GLBT center. I made only brief and intermittent eye contact and did not say "hi" or anything; they ignored me. After a moment two or three others came, and greeted the first ones, then more. Soon the room was full of teenagers and 20-somethings, embracing and laughing and greeting and texting and showing each other things. I was still ignoring them and vice versa. Then someone indicated that the meeting room was available and yes, indeed, this cluster of people was the trans group I'd come for.

Whereas the Nassau meeting had sent around the sign-in sheet and folks had been writing in "M2F" and "F2M", the Suffolk group had us go around and introduce ourselves and the pronouns we prefer. That meant either jumping in (and coming out) as a male-bodied non-transitioning girl who is neither M2F nor F2M when everyone else was just saying "I'm Celia and I go by 'she' and 'her'" or else not doing so and remaining unidentified, and feeling shy and nervous I did the latter. I wasn't, fortunately, the only middle-aged person present; the median age was probably around 23 but the average age somewhat higher, with about seven of us spread in the agerange of 40 and above.

There were lots of interesting situations, stories, experiences related. Their angers and exasperations and hurts, the things that bothered them or got them fired up, were things I could relate to and was so seldom able to talk about with other people who had those same reactions and experiences and feelings. My initial feeling of isolation, carrying over from the waiting period in the computer room, was sharply juxtaposed with my desire to join in and fit in.

That's rare, really rare. I go to social events and expect to not fit in, I anticipate maybe some hostility and, far more often, polite cordial distance; I tend to sit back in my corner (metaphorically if not literally), both shy and snobbishly reserved, politely cordial myself, expecting that over time people will learn my name, become accustomed to me being there, and still have no sense of who I am, still not integrating me in as more than an acquaintance, because that's just how it is. I don't blend. I have a private life with special individual people who understand and love me and I'm entirely used to not having a crowd I hang with as more than a peculiar stranger. That's how it is with choir. That's how it is with the kinky fetish scene. That's how it is with the polyamorous groups. It's how it was in college, in the classrooms, in the dorms. It's how it was in the psychiatric patients' liberation movement organizations, even, or on the fascinating hippie commune in Virginia that we visited earlier this summer. Those latter two are much more central identity factors for me than the other things mentioned here, which are more "things that I do" than they are "who I am". But I was reminded afresh and anew last night how much more powerfully, personally resonant the gender identity thing is for me. It's the central defining characteristic that has shaped my individual identity, the thing that if other people don't understand they "don't get me".

I should back up a moment and admit that I sometimes doubt that. I sometimes do wonder if I so desperately wanted an Explanation that, having had this one occur to me, I embraced it and adopted it fervently as both identity and answer... but that, as a one-time partner once said of me, I'm actually a person who likes to embrace his differences, who likes to be unusual and quirky, that I'm a nerdy intellectual who would not have fit in as a kid any better if I had been born female.

But last night it was in the air for me. A really compelling sense of the potential for fitting in, really fitting in, despite a lot of diversity and many factors that should have been sufficient to make me feel like an odd person in that room. And with it, the awareness that I crave it, when it seems like it's an actual possibility. Not feeling so standoffish, instead wanting the meeting to just continue, stay overnight and keep going, tell me more, and I'll tell you my story too. And also the unusual fear: what if they don't like me?

One disadvantage of a large group is that it can be difficult to select a good moment and jump in and start saying really personal things about yourself. I wanted to. I was on the verge several times only to be beaten to the opportunity by someone else. So as of yet I still don't know whether the room as a whole would have looked at me in perplexity and found me strange and not like themselves once I came out.


On the ride home I realized something about myself. I am mostly not a very damaged person despite the world's treatment of sissyboys / male girlpeople / genderinverted guys, but one area in which I'm kind of crumpled from it all is that shy-snobby-unfriendly demeanor. I wasn't always that way. I can recall as an 8 year old, a 10 year old, approaching other kids enthusiastically and expecting them to like me, and recoiling with shock when they were mean and hostile and made fun of me and ridiculed me for thinking they'd want anything to do with me. Over time I learned. Now it's ingrained: I tend to sit quiet and small in corners and if someone approaches I make sure to get out of their way; I have self-effacing mannerisms and I make it easy for people to have nothing to do with me without them having to push me away or reject me; I don't remember names or faces and I'm usually oblivious to conversations going on around me.

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So, let's say you're espousing pride in some sort of group identity. Could be anything: polyamory, communal living, lefthanded people, people who like to retain their underarm hairs, whatever.

It's pretty much inevitable that somebody, sooner or later, is going to react to that with "Oh, so, you people... you folks are like Embarrassing Example X, that's what you're talking about, right?"

Every group has one. If you're trying to promote the idea of polyamory, someone's going to ask if you mean something akin to the early Mormons, and so forth. If you're organizing unpopular kids who get bullied, someone's going to mention Klebold and Harris.

The thing is, the comparison wouldn't be made if there weren't some kind of overlap between what you're trying to talk about and what they're familiar with.

In my case, I found myself wincing when I read some of the descriptions of mass murderer Elliot Rodger: an angry man who was very uncomfortable with taking sexual initiative, and especially angry that male sexual experience was reserved mainly for guys who did. A guy who persisted in seeing this as an external problem, not as a personal problem of his own.

I can't tell you to what extent it's a spurious connection. I don't know all that much about the guy. I've probably read less of what was written about him than the average person, to tell you the truth. But I will say this: to whatever extent there are lots of people with experiences like mine up through my early 20s, that's a fertile soil for bitter anger; and in the absence of a shared identity and a shared understanding of this as a social-political issue, bitter anger tends to seek someone to blame.

It's part of what this is about. No, I'm not saying my book will prevent people like me from growing up to become mass murderers; that would be unduly melodramatic and has no more substantiation than someone equating me and what I'm trying to talk about with Elliot Rodger.

Another Embarrassing Example X that I may be compared to is the so-called "Nice Guys". I think the original send-up of "Nice Guys" was done on the website "Heartless Bitches International" 15-some-odd years ago; the gist of it was that there exist some self-described "nice guys" who are not directly sexually forward but whose motivation for being "nice" to girls is that they anticipate or expect sex as a sort of reward for being nice guys. Perhaps more to the point, they self-identify as "nice guys" usually in the course of complaining that they are underappreciated, that those evil women have the despicable tendency to prefer mean guys who treat them horribly, and that therefore they (the nice guys) should immediately STOP being nice and treat women like shit since that's obviously what they prefer.

I do have a different point of departure than these archetypal fellows: I may be angry about how things are set up but I have no intention of changing my behavior; if we're going to call it "being nice", well, it's not something I'm doing for someone else. And although, yeah, my analysis of the overall situation contains a lot of parallels to what these guys have collectively complained about, it's not women's fault. Women have explained in detail exactly what social prompts and punishments and expectations and so forth have channeled them into those very behaviors and choices, and THEY (the women) were making those explanations as complaints THEMSELVES. But yes, undeniably, on some level and in some sense of the word, it's about the same underlying phenomenon.

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ahunter3: (Default)
There are two recurrent and interrelated comments or lines of thought that have cropped up quite often over the years in which I've been trying to do this:


• What is it that you hope to accomplish? What's your goal, your ideal outcome, if your efforts were to succeed?


• Why do we need to identify and "have liberation" for this or that specified out-group? Shouldn't we just have human liberation, embrace the ideal of equality for absolutely everybody and leave it at that? I mean, by identifying yourself or your group as ThesePeople™, you're adding more energy into the old tired labels that labeled you as ThesePeople™ to begin with; if you don't wish to be treated differently, that seems kind of counterproductive.


The real AND the assumed answer to the first question is implicit in the second: when extrapolated to the final ideal outcome, yes, the ultimate desired end result is that the category should not matter. In this case, that either gender ceases to be a factor in how people think of other people (we might still be quite conscious of biological sex and have sexual orientation and preferences and so on based on that alone, but without differing notions and expectations of personality and behavior, let alone different yardsticks of desired or acceptable personality and behavior), or, alternatively, that we keep gender around in some fashion but have a multitude of variations and roles that we "play with" and none of them are specific to just one sex.


If I may step a step or two (or a dozen) back from the ideal outcome to a more in-my-lifetime attainable sort of outcome, one that is more closely linked to what I personally am trying to do, it would be that people end up holding in their minds a notion (a stereotype, a vague concept) of male-bodied people who are women or girls or sissy-esque or however you want to express that whose sexual orientation is towards female-bodied people; and, along with that notion (however cartoonlike or caricatured it may be) a sense of how male-female sexual behavior plays out. How people like that probably flirt or get laid or what they get hot for or who gets hot for them and so on.





So, now (finally) a reply to the second question. Whether it is being asked about feminism (as opposed to "humanism" or "people-ism" or whatever), or one of the movements against specific types of racism, or children's liberation, or schizophrenics' liberation, or this, my own home-rolled personal gender identity concern, the GENERAL answer to the second question is that most of the world already agrees in principle with "everyone should be equal", but huge chunks of that population have huge holes in their awareness of the ways in which equality is still lacking and in which their own perceptions and assumptions and attitudes may be playing a role in that.


Circa 1776, Thomas Jefferson rather famously stated that all men are created equal and are governed with legitimacy only with their consent, and furthermore have not only the right but the duty to throw off any government that becomes destructive of its legitimate purpose, which is to provide for their safety and happiness. It has often been pointed out in the modern era that when he and his cohort spoke of equality, they meant WHITE men who OWNED LAND. Rather than calling them dishonest or cynical, I would tend to assume that they believed that they did indeed want liberation for everybody, that they did indeed really support universal equality--they just had blind spots that seem suspiciously large to us, making it difficult for some modern people to reconcile their racist attitudes and assumptions (and laws) with their idealism.


We, of course, being enlightened, have naturally discarded all those exceptions and when we speak of equality we really do mean for everybody. Well, not for children, of course, they really are different, and it would be genuinely silly to try to treat them as equals in law and in everyday interaction, not to mention how massively impractical it would be... oh, do you hear a bit of an echo?


No, this is not about to become a treatise on children's rights or children's liberation, but it makes a good example, doesn't it? Regardless of whether we someday rethink and reconfigure the treatment of children, MOST people in today's society haven't consciously thought about and then rejected the notion that we SHOULD extend equality to children, so much as it simply hasn't crossed their minds. That's what I mean by a blind spot. I'm saying that in Thomas Jefferson's time, the average enlightment-inspired idealist didn't think one way or the other about race when they considered equality.


So that's the general answer: we can't just hop to an all-encompassing "humanism" or "people-ism" because first we find it necessary to draw people's attention to specific discrepancies in folks' widely-shared thought patterns that get in the way of that.



Now, the SPECIFICS:


Yeah, I could say "let's just can it with the sexist assumptions about behaviors and personality traits and agree on sexual equality", but y'all--you, the rest of the society I've spent my life living in, addressing you generally and in the plural--y'all have a specific blind spot. Me.


Most people have a notion about how sex works between male and female people, whether you are highly conscious of it or not. You tend to think of sex as something that girls and women consent to, or choose not to consent to. As something that boys and men seek to make happen, thus prompting girls and women to respond with that consent or lack thereof. No, not always, I know not all of you always think in those terms. But when you think of it in a more egalitarian and less sex-polarized way, you are often thinking of sex as it occurs in what is already an ongoing relationship. Or you are thinking of it as an individual scene, a liaison or tryst in which things went down according to some other sequence of behaviors, whether it be a highly mutual flirtation-to-consummation sort of thing or one in which a sexually forward female person flings a leg over or makes an overt pass or otherwise is distinctively the initiator...


So let's snag that lattermost possibility, since it sort of stands out as a clearly undeniable against-the-grain sort of image. What happens next? Does an ongoing romantic relationship develop out of this rendezvous, or is she just out for a tasty bit of nookie? What if she wanted a boyfriend and not just a sexual encounter? What if he wants a relationship if that's a possibility here, should he try to slow her down and make sure she's also interested in him as a person, or should he assume that if he's available for more than the roll in the proverbial hay she will probably be willing to explore that possibility with him? Under what circumstances would you most want your daughter to avail herself of this particular sexual strategy? What's your advice to the guy, if he wants to meet women and get involved and have a girlfriend?


How does the movie play out, with characters who, because of how they are, in temperament and how they think of themselves and so on, are predisposed to these kind of dynamics? I think probably you have an easier time conjuring up her and thinking of her and what happens to her in her life. She's been portrayed, although usually as a Bad Example. Hey, girls, you wouldn't want to follow her lead. Look what they call her, not just behind her back but to her face. Look how she ends up alone and lonely. But she talks back, doesn't she? You've heard her voice, maybe, because she isn't all that demure and shy about expressing where she's coming from. Anyway, whatever you figure she's in for as an outcome, I think maybe you have some sense of her and maybe you can sort of see how there's a mesh between her personality characteristics and these specific sexual behaviors, even if you can also see the pragmatic wisdom in the general advice that she should modify her behavior if she wants a better outcome for herself, is that perhaps the case?


But that's in part because when folks visualize her and what might happen with her, they aren't thinking of her meeting up with someone like him. Or a model of heterosexuality arranged around how things can be with someone like him. Oh, it's not entirely that he never gets portrayed at all, but how he feels about who he is is entirely in the shadows. We're led to believe he would be a lot more assertive and take a much more active role if he weren't such a chickenshit cowardly spineless wimpy person. On the rare occasion he gets to have a voice, he's all bitter and full of hate because those evil women don't like nice guys like him and instead throw themselves at horrid despicable bad boys who treat them like shit. Well, he says bitterly, no more mister nice guy, I'm going to grow a mustache and I will twirl it and I will be in the clock tower with my rifle. Well... it's better than no image of us at ALL, I suppose, but we're still very much erased and I think when people consider sex, sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender they do not think of guys like us who like being how we are, who are not bitterly trying to cast that aside, who do not aspire to being like other guys, who are proud of being like this, and who actually manage to make this way of being male work, who get to have relationships and get to feel sexy and desirable not in spite of but because of how and who we are.


I think that when people conceive of a person like that and add it, in their heads, to their model of the types of genders and sexual orientations that exist, it changes the mental landscape. I think it's sort of a missing puzzle piece and when it drops into place and folks stop having that particular blind spot, it makes sexual equality and the liberation from gender norms an actual possibility.


I'm shy and self-conscious about a lot of this, and it feels very personal, to talk about this and then have to worry (I can't help it) about looking utterly ridiculous as well as whiny and so forth, to anyone I can get to listen to me long enough to understand the message. But, well, practically by definition, anyone who fits the description is going to be shy and self-conscious about it, even if the necessary message were not so unavoidably twined up with "ooh look at me I'm so DIFFERENT", not to mention "ooh, the world has been very MEAN to me". Because. Because, think about it, that's who we are. The "personality politics" of gender at close range. Prim and private and demure, we are. So this isn't the most comfortable task possible, what I've set for myself. But someone's got to say it and so I guess it shall be me.


I'll get better at it as I go.

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