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June is Pride Month!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Let's fly.


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ahunter3: (Default)
PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT A:

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

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


PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT B:

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

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

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

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

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



PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT C:


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

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


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

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

Other Person: Your straight and you like women

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT D:


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

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

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

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




** ahem ** [clears throat]

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

• being in a male body

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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



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

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

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


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


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

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

So here are some takeaway points:

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

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

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



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(an outsider ponders male heterosexuality)

I haven't often made any attempt to answer the above question. I don't answer on behalf of men because I don't identify as a man. When young, I would not have spoken on behalf of the boys in general either. Other boys made it plain that they didn't consider me to be a valid representative. As for me, I found them largely inexplicable and strange anyway.

Unlike the parallel question of what women want, famously posed with some perplexity by Sigmund Freud, it's apparently not a question that most folks find difficult to answer. Judging from the things I've heard people say on the subject, men are considered to be simple straightforward uncomplicated beings.

Sex, they say.

They say that as if that were a simple straightforward and uncomplicated answer. Which I have always found odd, since I find boys and men, and this answer, far from self-explanatory. The more I heard, the less I felt like it applied to me, although I wanted sex too but it certainly wasn't simple, straightforward, or uncomplicated in the least. "What, exactly, do you mean, men just want sex?"

Men just want to get their rocks off, I'm told.

Oh... orgasms? I understand orgasms. I discovered my capacity for them when I was a child in the one-digit age range. The presence of another person isn't really necessary. I trust you are aware of this. You're trying to explain men's behavior by saying it's all about this?

Oh, they say, no, not masturbation. Yeah men wank, they jerk off, but men are hard-wired to want to have sex with women, with as many women as possible, as often and as fast as possible. Because they want to spread their seed around. That's what we mean about it all being about sex, about men wanting to get their rocks off.

(What about the ones who want sex but not with women?, I ask. They shrug. We dunno, something went haywire. We don't think of them as men. They don't count)

Hmm, well, I have no doubt that we all have the desire for sex because of reproduction, but the blueprint doesn't appear to require us individually and locally to crave pregnancies and babies as part and parcel of desiring sex. Instead, it would appear that a general appetite for sex tends to result in enough pregnancy and childbirth as an outcome. So we don't need to crave pregnancy or to hunger for babies in order to want sex. I've been in many a situation where we had a rather strong interest in not having pregnancy result, and believe me, it didn't interfere with being interested in sex at all. You saying men in general crave the causing of pregnancies and that's causing them to display the sexual behavior you've been describing, of trying to have sex as quickly as they can with as many women as they can?

No, they admit, not a direct conscious desire for pregnancy to occur. They concede that I am right, that evolution may desire that outcome but individual people's lust for sex has a somewhat separate existence. But, they go on to add, subconsciously that's still the agenda. Men want to plow all those fields and stick their seeds in, even if they don't consciously want their girlfriends to get inconveniently pregnant and maybe stick them with child support and pressure to settle down and stuff. See, women, especially when pregnant, are hard-wired to want a pair-bonding thing and make him the provider, that's how she best passes along her own genes by making sure her baby survives and stuff. But he don't want that, it's in his nature to fertilize as many as he can. So they have a little conflict of interest, you might say.

Aah, I nod sagely. Well, that explains why men hold women who are readily sexually available in such high esteem, since they can make the circuit of such women and have sex with a great number of them. They get to spread their little seeds all over the place that way. Never mind that in actuality there may not be a lot of actual pregnancies resulting in the modern era, with birth control, but as we've already established it's not directly about trying to make actual pregnancies, but rather is a subconscious agenda, as you said, a carryover from our past. Umm, but actually men don't have very good opinions of sexually available women. Why the nasty hostile contempt for sluts? And isn't it true that men tend to end up waging a long protracted campaign to obtain sex from less slutty women, taking up a lot of time to get to the same point they could get to with the slutty women, at the conclusion of which they often end up committing themselves to a monogamous relationship that keeps those little seeds from going into any other fertile furrows? How does that square with your portrait of men being all about sex as quickly as possible with as many women as possible?

So then they usually start babbling on about men needing the thrill of the chase and the triumph of conquest, and paternity and property and passing on his name, and my eyes glaze over. Men are so complicated, and weird and inconsistent.


Well, I admitted that I want sex myself, but that I didn't see it as simple and straightforward and uncomplicated. So I guess I can't then point fingers at men and say they are different because they are not simple, straightforward and uncomplicated, can I? Well, it does seem different from how men and their sexuality are described, whether we're equally complicated or not. Now maybe the description is inaccurate and how it is for me isn't so different from how it is for these men-people. Let me explain what I understand of my own and see where that takes us.

Sexual appetite for me is also not just the craving for orgasm — just like with the men, I don't find masturbation satisfying. Likewise for it not being directly about wanting babies. What it is about is connection, the yummy being-in-love emotional high, the deliciousness of full intimacy.

And it's somehow inherently about idealizing it, sort of making a fetish out of the ideal sexual-girlfriend relationship, spending a lot of time and energy thinking about it and fantasizing about it and, on some level, not quite obsessive but always sort of watching out for the possibilities, seeking that out. Looking for it. And even bigger, beyond even that, of trying to create the conditions under which that ideal relationship could and would occur.

It's like the greatest most wonderful thing ever would be an ideal relationship taking place in a context where it would thrive. And that means making yourself the person capable of being in such a relationship, and it means cleaning up and getting your life working so that things are running on an even keel so that you could make use of an opportunity. Writ large, it even means improving the entirety of society until the social environment is such that the happiest and most satisfying sexual and romantic connection can take place and thrive.

Now, lots of people through time have talked about sex being some kind of sacrament, some holy thing you're not supposed to trample into the mud. Some shiny thing you're not supposed to profane. I'm not sure if that's the same thing I'm driving at or not. A lot of the time it does not seem to be. Much of the conversation about sex being holy and special and all that seems to have to do with restricting when it can happen and defining really narrow "OK zones" for sex and saying sex outside of those definitions means you're doing the mud-tramping thing. And frankly that sounds to me no different from sex-hating, sex-fearing condemnation of sexual pleasure and appetite, all that fault-finding and attempting to define sacred untrammelled sex.

In fact, I have come to think that sexual appetite is powerful and revolutionary and for this reason institutionalized social structures fear it and have sought to erase it, constrain it, define it narrowly while prohibiting outside-definition expressions; they've sought to attach its glamour to other items, they've attempted to harness it and make it motivate people to do the institution's bidding, and they've sought to bottle it and market it as a commodity.

In its resulting distorted forms, sexual appetite has often been experienced by people as the enemy of their self-determination and freedom. History has not been without radicals who have sought to free themselves of institutional control by transcending sexual desire.

But ultimately it is more radical to embrace it, pay attention to it, and let it lead the mind as well as the heart, because of what it intrinsically seeks.


Now, back to the men thing, men and their sexuality. I mean, yeah, I could just dismiss all that descriptive stuff and say men probably aren't like that to begin with. But it's so often men themselves saying those things about men's sexuality and what drives men and so on. Me, I've spent a lifetime being defined, both by myself and by others, as someone on the outside of the whole being-a-man thing, so take this with as many grains of salt as you find appropriate, but here's my outsider's take on it, OK?

First off, there's this game, the game I call "Heterosexuality", which is played according to these game-rules:

1. The females want to "fall in love" and be loved in return by a cute guy who will be the boyfriend, and, within that context, they want good sex (in earlier times, marriage was necessary first). The males don't really like most females that much, unless they are in love, and they aren't necessarily trying to fall in love at all, and, so, in or outside of that context, they want good sex. Therefore...

2. Males come on to females, usually because they are physically attracted to them, since their main interest is physical and appearance is a physical phenomenon. Sometimes they come on to a female because she has a reputation for being sexually available to males whether they love her or not. Either way, the females can reject the guys they don't have any interest in at all, but the other males have to be kept interested but slowed down so that proximity and time creates the possibility that he will really start to like her, perhaps fall in love. Females do not overtly come on to males.

3. Males who are rejected are allowed to keep on trying, since males who think they are not really being rejected, just slowed down a bit, are supposed to keep on trying, and sometimes you can't tell which is which anyway. But if a male thinks a female is being too hard to get, so that it isn't fun for him any more, he can quit paying attention to her - he doesn't have to keep on trying. Females are not supposed to pursue the matter. It is up to him to press the issue.

from "Same Door, Different Closet: A Heterosexual Sissy's Coming-out Party, 1992

Now, not all men are playing the Heterosexuality game, but a great many of the male people who don't are either defined by others as not-men, or define themselves as other than men, or (as has been the case for me) both of those things.

So you have to understand men in the context of the Heterosexuality game that most of them are playing. Suppose they want the connection-thing and the ideal-relationship-thing too, as their first and foremost real desire, so that they're basically just like me? That would mean that the folks who say men just want sex as quickly and as often with as many women as possible are wrong, but just suppose. Go along with me here. Let's say this is what the men want even if they aren't consciously aware of it, that it is what they want even if they themselves believe they just want sex as quickly as often etc etc. Well, how are they going to get there within the context of the Heterosexuality game as described? Well, by losing. By finding the woman who will successfully trap him, catch him, and "domesticate" him into the ongoing emotionally-connected relationship he craves and needs. In other words, this is the flip side of the conventional notion about sex described so well by Robin Thicke: the nice good girl really wanting to be seized and done unto masterfully by the bad boy who knows she wants it. On this other level, the level of ongoing intimate connection, she's the one who knows what he really wants and makes it happen. Which sex is doing the more meaningful steering?

There's nothing new about identifying the establishment of a long-term relationship as some kind of female win, or even evoking an image of the conquered man shackled. But now we are negating the notion that he wanted something different. This is what he wants, but he's in denial; he believes he just wants sex as often and as quickly and with as many women as he can. So in the Heterosexuality Game he's actually being set up to be brought down. A need for conquest, indeed!

Oh, did I ever mention that what I, as a male girl, want is 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?

Self-identified real men may dissent.



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ahunter3: (Default)
In my talks, such as the talk I gave last week in Manhattan, I mention Jeff. Jeff is a gay entertainer; he does a show at the microphone where he intersperses personal anecdotes with edgy humor. Jeff, like me, is and has always been a feminine person, more like one of the girls than like one of the boys. He talks about this at the microphone, about himself growing up in a small town in the midwest, about watching the ballerinas on TV and wanting to be graceful and elegant like that himself. "See, I knew even then", he says. "I was only about eight. Me and my sisters all wanted leotards and tutus."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And to use that explanation as a mating call.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest of the world was not prepared for it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Continue on course.

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ahunter3: (Default)
Feminist theorist Laura Mulvey introduced the idea of the "male gaze" originally when talking about movies. She claimed, pointed out examples, and made her case that film footage was shot, directed, planned, and edited by males imagining (consciously or by default) a male audience, and that the depiction of women onscreen in particular was being shaped by this: that the camera ogled actresses, that the way the cameras tracked them throughout, etc, was guided and structured around this male gaze.

Years later, as a grad student pursuing feminist studies, I was presented with poststructuralist feminist theory's assertion that every depiction of women anywhere, in any medium, even when filmed or written or painted or described by a female author, was still inevitably always only the male gaze in action. Because men own language, have created the language of depiction, etc. Like most things poststructuralistic, that's ridiculously overstated and I HATE that stuff, that over-the-top (or under-the-bottom) insistence that power is so totally hegemonic that no feminism or other resistance to it has room to breathe. But if one backs off from that extreme position enough to allow for the possibility of movement, it's a useful observation: the male gaze seeps into other perspectives by having set the examples.

Anyway, that male gaze is a cisgendered and heterosexually oriented male gaze. That's assumed without modifying adjectives or qualifiers. And as a consequence of that, the male gaze plays a role in informing the world's response to exception males, males who are not cisgender, males who are not heterosexual. One component of homophobia and of its less-often spotlighted twin sissyphobia is what I call the "broccoli eating response": when someone who hates broccoli sees someone else eating it, they may respond "ewww, how can you eat that? broccoli takes horrible!". As if their own subjective experience of it were actually an objective measure of innate broccoli-characteristics. And in a similar way, cisgender hetero males often experience gay males and non-cis males with a reaction of "ewww, you're not doing it right, that's all wrong and stuff!"

Exhibit A: a malebodied* girl. *(By "malebodied" I am referring to the components of a transperson or genderqueer person that are not consistent with their gender, i.e., the physiological and morphological characteristics that people relied on when they assigned them the gender that is other than the gender they identify as now). The operator of the male gaze comes along, perceives, and says "Ewwww, I would not fuck that, that's gross and disgusting". And in response to follow-up questions, says "If you found and trotted out one of those that was sexy and cute, that would be gross and disgusting because that would me me a fag, that would make ME into one of the people I say 'ewwww' about. So that's all wrong". This evaluation assumes that the malebodied girl in question is who she is in order to seek his admiring and appreciative gaze.

For the transwoman who is a "transitioner" —- that is, one who seeks to present as female-bodied, whether with or without surgery or hormones or other bodily modifications -- and whose attraction happens to be towards men, ...here, especially, the mainstream interpretation, informed by the male gaze, is that the desire to be found sexually appealing to the male gaze is the entire reason WHY she is trans.

Well guess what? There are other components; this is, at best, only one factor.

Being able to have female friends without being perceived as a walking appetite symbol, someone whose interest in any woman or girl is always tagged as a sexual interest.

Being able to have one's own behavioral nuances interpreted through the viewer's "dictionary" of girl / woman behaviors.

Having other folks' behaviors geared towards and shaped by a set of starting expectations of what it will mean to be dealing with a girl or woman.

In short, to be thought of as a girl.


I'm holding in my hands a zine titled NOT TRANS ENOUGH: A Compilation Zine on the Erasure of Non Passing and Non Conforming Trans Identified People, compiled and edited by Eddie Jude. In it are the musings and rants and manifestos of others who, like me, run headlong into the attitude that if your goal is not to be sexual eye candy for the cisgender heterosexual people whose attraction is towards the gender that you now identify as, then you make no sense, what's the point of you?

A feminist theorist would point out that even if the transperson in question is a transman, and the anticipated admiring gaze therefore that of a heterosexual cisgender woman, our assumptions about what she would find interesting and attractive are heavily informed by the MALE gaze, as many models of female sexuality are unconsciously and unthinkingly formulated by assuming women's sexuality is just like men's "except aimed in the opposite direction".

Attitudes from the mainstream and, to a significant extent, also from within the trans community itself, towards transwomen lesbians, often has quite a bit of that "what's the point?" component. Doubly so if the person is not a transitioner.

On a message board, I came out as genderqueer, specifically as male (that's my sex) and as a girl (that's my gender) and was informed:

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.


No, indeed I'm not. And yeah, apparently I, too, am Not Trans Enough to count.

As a nontransitioning lesbianesque male girlish person, my laundry list of wishes and desires and expectations doesn't seem to appear on that person's social radar. But I would like to be able to connect with and make friends with my peers -- women of compatible age and experience in particular, without all expressions of interest on my part being seen through the lens of expectations about malebodied folk and their interests in women. I want my gestures and postures and tone of voice and facial expressions and whatnot to be interpreted correctly, and to be treated by people in a fashion that makes sense for the person that I am, and all that happens a lot more often when people think of me as one of the womenfolk.

Is SOME portion of it all about marketing yourself as sexually attractive to those you're attracted to yourself? For most of us, I think it probably plays a role, sure. In my case, given my attraction to women, I would formulate it as "being equally able and eligible to be a femme, rather than being relegated to being butch". And that doesn't tend to happen if I'm perceived as a guy or man.

But being generically perceived as sexy, as sexy is generically set up for the gender you identify as, is damn well not the fundamental truth behind this condition.

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ahunter3: (Default)
Asymptotic Gender

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



-----

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


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


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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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ahunter3: (Default)
I do tend to whine a bit. In here, and on the topic in general. Comes with the territory: when atypical female people set out to draw attention to social feminization and the expectations and roles and whatnot that they have to cope with, it's widely perceived as aggressive belligerent ranting; when we do our version, it's naturally going to be experienced as narcissistic whining.

I do a lot of my whining about the difficulty of getting more people to listen to me whine.

I was out for one of my long walks last Sunday and wondering how I'd feel about this obsession, and about my life in general, if I never get any significant traction. Would I feel like I had wasted my life and my time? I've occasionally said that in my life I really only set out to do one thing, take on one serious project, and this is it. Now that I've passed the midlife marker, it's a question worthy of consideration: how will I feel if I wake up on one of my last days as an old old person and look back and realize, if such is the case, that I set out to do one thing in my life and failed at it?

Mostly I think I'd feel like I gave it my best shot. And that I had done what I felt driven to do, and was true to what felt right for me. I think if it comes to that, I will feel good about myself for having believed in myself and made the attempt. And I will consider it a life far better spent than if instead I found myself looking back and realizing I had set aside something that I considered an important mission or calling simply because the doing of it turned out not to be easy or swift.

So in light of all that, I should acknowledge that although I complain a lot about how frustrating this all is, I am doing what I have selected for myself; i chose it and it is what I want. I get some measure of satisfaction from it even when it resembles beating my head against a wall.



Meanwhile, I have some news-bits, some morsels that are all flavored up with success instead of that perennial head-against-wall stuff for a change.

• Thanks to musicman, who recommended me to them and encouraged me to keep following up with them, it appears that I will be a presenter at Baltimore Playhouse, most likely on January 22. This will be another performance of the basic talk I gave at LIFE in Nassau last March.

• I finally met with the woman who manages the campus Women's Center and also teaches introductory Women's Studies at my alma mater SUNY at Old Westbury -- Professor Carol Quirke. After what happened with the personnel at the Nassau County LGBT Center, who kept not returning my phone calls and then indicated a nearly-complete lack of interest when I finally got more pushy with them about it, I was mostly starting to think that the Old Westbury people were similarly hoping I'd simply go away before they had to tell me I'm nowhere near as interesting as I think I am. But I made an appointment to drop in on her during her regular office hours, and it went well. I left off some additional materials (including a printout of my blog posting) and we talked about socialization and gender and how we felt about biological essentialism and coercive political correctness and I think we're very much on the same channel as far as how we view such things; I definitely went away thinking she was receptive to my ideas and really is interested in having me come to speak there.

• I'm immersed in a slow shift from mostly querying literary agents to querying independent editors (for feedback, actual content editing, and potential referrals whether they officially refer authors or not) and querying small publishers. One editor, Nikki Busch, has recommended that I find an independent editor who specializes in developmental edit, i.e., "the big picture stuff: organization, narrative voice, pacing, character development, and so on". She's aimed me at the Editorial Freelancers Association to find someone who specializes in memoirs and nonfiction narratives and I'll probably do that. Meanwhile, I have a query in at Neuroqueer Books, an enterprise that I believe Old Cutter John's son started, and I should be hearing back from them any day now. And I'm about to query Manic D Press, another possibility.



Whilst out walking and thinking last Sunday, I processed some other related notions and ideas:

• Some of my difficulties with networking are actually tied to my tendency to speak to people who happen to be members of an organization or participants in some movement-related activity as if they, personally, WERE the movement incarnate. I caused problems for myself back in 1980 when I tried to correspond with the Director of the on-campus Rape Crisis Center as if she were radical feminism incarnate and poised to consider my perspective on behalf of radical feminist thinkers everywhere. It was more recently a behavor causing confusion and miscommunication when I contacted the Programming Director at the Nassau Country LGBT Center to suggest that I present to them there: I spoke to her as malebodied sissyfem genderqueer liberation addressing the existing LBGTQ establishment and not as a potential presenter speaking to an organization official in charge of booking speakers and arranging events.

I do that, I realized, because I am mostly doing my own socio-political activism all by myself, so none of my behavior is supported or reinforced by being a person in a position doing a task or job, or of being a part of a group or organization and therefore experiencing the little social perks of belonging and participating and being engaged in a shared activity.

I usually see my isolation as a limiting factor (and a source of frustration). But there's a sense in which it means that nearly all of it that I do involves a cerebral connection to the cause qua cause; I'm never immersed in it because my friends are there, or because I like the wine and cheese and music at the receptions, or because it's an ideal socioppolitical venue to meet interesting new people, or because it's my job or my career.

Oh, it's still mostly a limiting factor, and yeah you can be forgiven for pinching your nose at the intellectual snobbery residing in the previous paragraph, don't get me wrong on either account, I know and I know. (The latter is a compensation for the former). But it's still relevant here. If there's a useful takeaway from this observation, it's that I will probably have my most satisfying conversations with the most fervently committed extremists, and that I need to nurture a more pragmatic streak within myself for having conversations with the rest of the folks I encounter along the way.

• When I speak of being a sissy or a male girl or describe that I was always one of the girls despite male body, one of the common misconstruals I get is that people visualize flamboyant emotive dramatic people, people for whom the feminine is centrally about "look at me". That's not it. Actually it was all about "approve of me". More explicitly, it was "obey the rules, be the teacher's pet, show us what a good citizen you can be". There's a not-so-nice element to it which I should probably emphasize more often, if only because it offsets some of the sickeningly-sweet aspects that may be hard for some to swallow: we who bought into that thought ourselves superior, were often smug snobby kids who were sure that we were going to be the ones to end up in charge of things. Because we were doing it right, were doing what adults valued.

Women's studies courses often observe that the "good girl" mystique sets girls up: it turns them into approval-seekers, pleasers of others. What sometimes gets lost is that the girls who embraced it believed in the same tradeoff that I did: they thought they, and not the undisciplined weak childish people who lacked self-control and who did not play nicely with others, would be the ones who would run the world.

At any rate, I was not initially alone among the children. What happened to the rest of the good boys, the nice guys? How did the other ones feel about the bad boys, the disruptive and disobedient boys, calling them girls and calling them sissies and taunting us with the claim that they were doing "boy" right and we were the weak ones, afraid to risk disapproval? I know what happened with many of them: they became convinced and got defensive about it. They stopped caring more about what other goody-goody people (mostly girls) and teachers and other adults thought and started to care about what the bad boys and tough boys thought of them. But what about the others?

Anyway, yeah, we wanted to be better than others. Little Lord Fauntleroy aloof from the riffraff. Tattletale Boy glad to see the misbehaving children get what they deserve. Sure, I'll confess to it. So OK, the world is fully entitled to be wary of our reappearance on the stage to claim once again to be some flavor of better, a new and more sexually liberated way of doing male and all that squeakyclean gender smugness.

How about merely "as good"?, though? You figure people can admire us some if we stand up for ourselves and assert that we like being who we are?

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

Let me explain how that came about...



In the last 2 weeks...

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

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

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

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


So...

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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



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



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


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

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

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ahunter3: (Default)
I was watching a fragment of a movie that was either set in the early 1800s or set in an imaginary world with similar social mores and attitudes; there was a scene in which a fiery preacher was glancing at a woman in the congregation and getting flashback memories of the hot steamy sexxx they'd had together, and he was visibly flustered and awkward about having her there.

And it hit me very clearly that he feels vulnerable to her because of the prior intimacy, and doesn't like that in this context; I could see the gears in his head spinning, if you know what I mean... that is, he was just a character in a movie so obviously I'm projecting a bunch of archetypal stuff onto him based on his social location and the surrounding environment portrayed in the movie, and within that framework of understanding I was suddenly seeing things from his vantage point:

• quite aside from any specific mention of sex, his customary way of being and behaving there in his church is all about control and propriety, acting with dispassionate detachment as a rule-following socially obedient and socially approved role model;

• there's a social hierarchy in place there and he's at the apex of it, shared with the male community leadership of older established successful men and with younger men and mothers and wives and single women and children strung out below in more or less consecutive order of privilege authority and power;

• sex and the complex of feelings that accompany it really throw a spanner into the works, making him partially inclined to respond to the woman as an equal, an intimate, and although he very much enjoyed the sex at the time, he doesn't like this situation;

• he is going to want to denounce sex, and to denounce women who have sex, as something shameful that needs to be evicted from the church context, and relegated to whatever ghetto of other social interaction it may be consigned so as to minimize this kind of disruption while still existing so that there can still be sex;

• one outcome of this is that sex, for men like him, will be primarily something that happens not with one's social equals, the people that one interacts with in one's primary social context — because no woman in that context can really be his equal, and therefore he can't afford the intimacy — but instead will take place with people who are enough below it that they aren't welcome in that context;

• this, in turn, cheapens sex itself as something inappropriate in the context in which one such as him spends most of his social life; it is instead something that one scuttles off to experience in a different social context which is otherwise below his position, reeking of dirt and contempt and deplorability;



None of these observations is particularly new or unique, but notice how the attitude towards sex is an outcome, not the cause, of the social hierarchy. Sex is a threat to hierarchy of this sort, so it is perceived as such and treated as such.

Note also what will likely happen to "family generative sex", sex between husband and wife, etc; it obviously has to persist if yon clergyman is going to have children, but the same threat to hierarchy would exist if he were having erotic passionate intimate sex with his wife and now she were present there in the church setting. So sex in this context will be kept tame and dull, with sex of the exciting variety that gives one flashbacks and ongoing emotional responses exported to the other context.

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

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

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

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


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

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

Here's how generalization renders gender out of sex:

Belief

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

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

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

Distribution

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

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

From this Perspective

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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ahunter3: (Default)
After decades during which the only folks who'd ever heard of genderqueer besides genderqueer folk themselves were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans, there is now more and more newspaper, magazine, and TV coverage of it as a social phenomenon.

Washington Post

Cosmopolitan

ABC sitcom



ON THE ONE HAND, AS WELL AS THE OTHER and any other hands you can conjure up, for that matter, it is an unadulterated good thing that we're not as invisible as we were. So let's be clear on that much: the remainder of this little opinion-piece should not be taken as meaning that I think having some social visibility is a mixed blessing. It's not. There's nothing mixed about that. It's all good.

No, my concern is with some of the forms that it seems to be taking. Specifics that are present (or, more to the point, absent) in our new visibility that could cause problems for all of us. Specifics that are absolutely NOT inevitably part of finally getting some social visibility, they just happen to be part of how our social visibility has developed.

And that problem is this: I don't think anyone consuming mainstream explanations of genderqueer are going to be able to visualize how any of us could have come up with this sense of identity if it weren't already trending.

It is being portrayed as a New Happening Thing, a bandwagon of gender identity that we're jumping onto in order to be cool, to be a part of an edgy new phenomenon.

Let me contrast this up for you a bit. People have some sense at this point of what it might be like to come of age and find yourself attracted to the same sex, and can imagine not only what it might be like in a world that already has a gay and lesbian community with public places where you could meet others like yourself, but also, I think, what it might be like if there WEREN'T. To be like that in an era or in a place where you might not know you weren't the only one. To find the feelings and attractions and confusions and have to figure them all out on your own. To run headlong into the attitudes and assumptions that can make life difficult if that happens to be your situation.

And how about being male-to-female or female-to-male transsexual? Yes, I think people do have a sense at this point of what that might be like, including perhaps growing up in a small town where you'd have to sort that out and figure a good portion of it out on your own. How complicated and how confusing that must be. The situations that would be messy and untenable and difficult to negotiate, and the loneliness and isolation and lack of feeling understood by the people surrounding you.

You're nodding, aren't you? You see where I'm going with this. A considerable number of people out there understand in some sense that we ARE genderqueer and they might be able to get a passing grade on a multiple-choice exam that asked questions about pronouns and apparel and filling out applications that require a M or an F and bathrooms and how one moves and talks and gestures and so on. But if they were asked what kind of shit we would be going through in an environment that did not as of yet have much of a consciousness about being genderqueer, and they were asked to describe what folks like us would have to go through and the things we'd have to process in our minds to come up with a self-awareness of being genderqueer all on our own?

Feel free to contradict me, but I think the average liberally tolerant person who knows about "genderqueer" would think——if not necessarily say to our faces—— that if there weren't already a subgroup of people already out there "doing genderqueer", we'd never come up with it on our own; that it isn't a real gender or sexual identity the way that being lesbian or gay, or even trans, is, with real suffering and alienation anchored in the way that who we are isn't what is expected based on our bodies. I think they'd pause and think on it for a few moments and then say that we'd choose from among the nearest-best-fitting of the other sexual / gender identities: many of us would consider ourselves gay or lesbian, many would identify as transsexual, and quite a few would decide that we were straight and cisgendered. And not suffer to any measurable degree as a consequence. Because we have no narrative. People know (sort of) what it's like to be us (due to us telling them) but not much about what it is like to be one of us and failing to fit in as mainstream, as exception to the rule, or even as exception to the exception to the rule.

Important disclaimer: All of the above is quite self-serving insofar as I've written a coming-out story, so of course I'm inclined to see reasons why my story addresses an important void.

But even so.

Mine is just one story. I cannot write the story of what it is like to be nonbinary genderfluid. Because that's not my experience. Someone else needs to. I can't explain what it's like to be asexual in a sexualized world that attraction-codes people on the basis of their bits. Someone else needs to.

If we don't, I fear that a few years will tick by and then some other trendy phenomena will make stories about us less new and shiny and we'll get written about far less often, without ever causing people to understand why any of this MATTERS.


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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)
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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