All Politics is Interactive

We live in a world of individual actors. We live in a world organized and controlled by social structures. Social structures can be oppressive, and as individual actors some of us seek to struggle against them.

The relationship of individiual actor to structure is most centrally this: the structures do not exist anywhere except in the minds of the individual actors.

Unless it is even more centrally this: the thoughts, perceptions, and understandings of individual actors are, if not utterly defined by the social structures in their heads, then at least strongly shaped and channelled and interpreted by them.



Since the social structures that we wish to change exist only inside of people's heads, we are -- by definition -- trying to change individual people, trying to modify the contents of other people's heads. That's where the social structure lives. So -- again, by definition -- we have a critical perspective on the mindset and attitudes and belief systems and types of awareness that are in other people's heads. We are constantly making value judgments and evaluations about which portions of what we see and encounter in other people's heads is harmful, a part of the social problems we're trying to change, and which portions are either a part of the solution we're working towards or have new insight and awareness that might be part of other efforts, seeking other solutions, perhaps seeking to modify the contents of our head accordingly.

We are uneasy with being judgmental, or with being judged by others, and we often find it awkward and difficult to reconcile acceptance and kindness and general love for our fellow comrade sufferers with our ongoing need to change what needs changing.

All the nouns that refer to social structure and social institution are verbs and adjectives as well if you turn them to a different angle. Formal patterns of interactive behavor make up organizations, laws, plural composite entities of any sort -- society. A dance is a structure -- it is made up of rules and routines, form and shape and timing. Yet the dance is also composed entirely of dancers dancing. The behavior has a certain quality, a 'danciness', if you will, that makes it different from other ways of moving or other structured physical interactive behaviors, a different that allows us to recognize it as a dance (and as dancers dancing) as opposed to (for instance) football games (and football players playing).

As anyone who has been in the position of teaching a new dance can tell you, the possibility of the dance is dependent on having a shared set of rules and expectations and notions and concepts, a shared blueprint explaining to all the dancers how to dance. Even if the notions are spread spontaneously (and yes, this can happen, does happen, sometimes), the spread must take place somehow. And there's a final critically important element, in addition to a set of notions about how to do the dance and the fact of sharing it -- the dancers must be aware that the other dancers also share these notions, so that they will have the expectation that the other dancers will indeed be doing their part in the dance.

So that's social structure: it's all in our heads, collectively speaking; and it requires that what's in our heads is shared and expected to be shared as a collectively agreed-upon reality.

Social change: there is enormous, perhaps infinite, possibility for social change, since social structure exists only in our heads, but the following things must occur if social change is to occur: new notions of how to interact must be conjured up in a consistent pattern, they must be communicated so that they are shared notions, and the communication must saturate to the point that we have the reasonable expectation that the individuals we encounter share an awareness of the new pattern.


Behaviors take on a political impact because of political context. There is often not one dance and its moves that are within people's awareness, but several, and while sometimes someone will announce what dance we're about to do, it transpires at least as often that the dancers convey with their opening gestures and positioning shifts which dance they prefer, and they take their cue from what seems to be the sense or the primary direction opted for in the room at the time. So there may be an old way, a set of behaviors that are part of the previous structure, and also a new way, with modified behaviors that make up part of the new strucutre, and the dancers are familiar with both.

The gesture, the word phrase used or the nuance of expression, become politicized in this way. "You said 'handicapped' here, and I think we want to say 'disabled' instead", someone may suggest. It's not limited to language by any means, but language is a key space in which we see it occur. Things that we say take on political impact that has little to do with any intrinsic harm or rightness about those terms and phrases but because of the larger patterns that they are components of, the larger world-views and understandings and patterns of behavior that they come to symbolize or represent to us. A person may be affronted over your use of "service recipient" where they prefer "client", affronted in ways that sometimes exasperate people who focus on the item or element directly objected to, not realizing the extent to which it's not the item in and of itself that is problematic, but that it tends to be a component of a larger structure, a way of looking at or thinking of something that isn't the only way, and in an area where social change is being attempted or desired. The person expressing their affront may lose track of this fact as well.

Everyone on the dance floor has a responsibility for our moves. All the dancers want a degree of predictability and pattern, and where there are multiple possible patterns there are choices to be made, and we are responsible for our choices. At the same time, we are all caught up in many many dances we can't afford to sit out, and at any given time there are many dancers who have some notions of how the dance could go differently but who haven't communicated those notions to you yet, so you don't know the new possible pattern.

How many dancers must have a new dance in their heads as a shared notion before their movements on the dance floor can actually constitute a new dance that others can join?

One of my college professors often spoke of the attitudes they'd had in the 1960s: "Most of our students don’t engage with course content as political. When we were students ourselves, we took over administration buildings and the police were sent in, and we printed our own manifestos and taught our own alternative classes in the hallways. Teaching the truth about the Vietnam war and race and how the people who write the textbooks take money from the corporate conglomerates that benefit from the war. But this is a different era."

It was a time when there was a widely shared notion, a notion so widely shared it was expected of you that you shared in it, that those who were seeking social change were a critical mass and that its success was inevitable.

So add that to the pile: that social change itself, as a real fact, is a part of our mindset, and that we expect everyone we encounter to have that same awareness, along with its attendant responsibilities.

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My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.


My second book, That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class, is also being published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It's expected to be released in early 2022. Stay tuned for further details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page

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Personal Style, Presentation and Flair: Patched Jeans

Personal Style, Presentation and Flair: Patched Jeans

sewing, sissyhood, sex v gender


Presentation is part of gender, because we are social creatures; it's not all about how we identify within our own heads, it's also how we seek to be perceived and treated and interpreted by others.

Unlike a transgender person who wishes to be perceived and thought of as a typical person of their gender, I'm poised on a more precarious and less defined balance beam, not wishing to be perceived as female but hoping to convey that I'm femme. And I don't wish to wear skirts all the time!

One thing that has emerged as a major trademark personal style of mine is my patched jeans. What started out utilitarian -- I had jeans that I liked with worn-out spots and holes in them, and decided to preserve them by patching them -- became a fashion statement in and of itself.


Selfie One:




Selfie Two:





Those were the first two pairs of seriously patched jeans in my wardrobe.


Details of the first pair:

Pair One overview:



Pair One, left leg: a constellation of small patches:



Pair One, right leg: adding some color:



Pair One, rear view:




Details of the second pair:

Pair Two overview:



Pair Two, rear view, showing transferred pocket:




For the next two pair, I added in some freehand embroidery.





Details:

Pair Three, Star:



Pair Three, Left Leg:



Pair Three: crotch -- a patch that blends in



Another view:



Anchor points: solidifying the attachment of the back pockets:




———————


My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.


My second book, That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class, is also being published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It's expected to be released in early 2022. Stay tuned for further details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page

———————

This DreamWidth blog is echoed on LiveJournal and WordPress. Please friend/link me from any of those environments on which you have an account.

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Author Event — Los Alamos Author Tells a Story From a Different Closet

https://laconm.libcal.com/event/8105228

Mesa Public Library, from which I used to check out books when I was a kid, is hosting me to read from GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, lecture for about 20 minutes, and then open it up for questions and discussion.

This will be the first event of its sort to be hosted in Los Alamos, the place where the majority of the action in the book takes place.

They want folks to register for the event in advance so as to know how many people will be in attendance, so if you're interested, please click through!

It's October 7, at 7 PM Mountain time, aka 9 PM Eastern time.



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The book in question, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, was published by Sunstone Press in Spring 2020. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.


My second book, That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class, is also being published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It's expected to be released in early 2022. Stay tuned for further details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page

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BOOK REVIEW -- Chameleon: A Memoir, by Michael Caputo

As a person reaches that age when they become aware of their sexual interests, they'll sometimes realize they are on a different path than the others around them. Michael Caputo came to realize he was fascinated by male people and male bodies, although not exclusively; but as he got older he found he was more interested in guys who seemed pretty typical but who liked to have sex with other guys now and then -- guys who didn't broadcast that they weren't straight but were up for gay sex on the "down low", or DL.

It's a phenomenon I've mostly been oblivious to, myself -- if I encounter the letters "DL" my first assumption is dual-layer DVD media for recording feature-length movies!

But I'm aware of a certain body of critical attitudes among gay rights and gay culture folk. That gay males who don't want to be associated with discernably gay people or culture are full of self-hatred, that the bar scenes where everyone is so relentlessly masculine are harbors of both misogyny and internalized homophobia, and all that.

Michael Caputo doesn't directly engage with any of those notions, but just lays out his life and experience for us to draw our own conclusions.


Not being part of the "G" or the "B" portions of LGBTQIA myself, I don't have a personal stake in that matter, but I do note that Caputo is quite emphatic about identifying as a gay man himself, both in his book and in his everyday life. No sign of being ashamed or skulking around in secret, he's definitely out. And in his description of his dating experiences and hookup behaviors, it's not so much that he seeks straight fellows to play with, but that the kind of guys he finds attractive apparently don't find it necessary or important to embrace gay (or bi) as a fundamental identity, so much as it's an activity that they enjoy. So Chameleon is not one of those books about closeted masculine guys living on the twilight fringes of the gay world, like some of those that John Rechy wrote, even if some of the people Michael Caputo has played with would seem to fall into that pattern.

As for preferring the masculine, well, I tend to enjoy masculine (aka butch) traits as expressed by female people and find them attractive, so I can relate to appreciating them. Sure, there's misogyny and sissyphobia, but speaking as a femme person, I found no contempt for women or sissy-femme males in Caputo's story.

Michael writes in a comfortable and accessible narrative, telling his story in a matter-of-fact conversational manner. He is at times irate or frustrated and lets it show in his recount of his life's events, but that's against a general backdrop of a good life well lived. He likes who he is and has his own tale to tell.

Like the lives of LGBTQIA folks in general, this is not a tale only of gender or sexuality. Sometimes it's the central focus but often it's peripheral to what's going on in his life. Michael has a head for business and a flair for keeping his clients happy. He shifts career paths several times, working in a flower ship, then as a receptionist for a phone sex business, a stint at CBS studios, and then his longest and most successful role as a licensed massage therapist, esthetician, and groomer.

Fairly late in the book, there's the story of Michael's relationship with Manuel, which is a good representation of a larger pattern in Caputo's life -- he has tended throughout to prowl for sexual opportunities but not so much to openly seek a boyfriend, to look for an opportunity to fall in love. When it does happen, he's appreciative and even ecstatic, but also vulnerable in ways he doesn't directly write about. There's an abrupt transition from life with Manuel being lovely and wonderful to wary distrust on both their parts, with hurt and disappointment driving them apart. The reader may wish for a more introspective examination of getting one's hopes up or fearing loss and how it affects one's behavior within a relationship.

Michael also has to cope with the nightmare of being accused of sexual misconduct. The complainant is female, alleging improper advances and offensive workplace behavior, and Michael is horrified to be in a position of being treated as guilty until proven innocent.

As with the rest of the tale, there's a persistent thread: events like these could occur in anyone's life, but would they unfold in quite the same way to someone who was not gay?



———————


My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.


My second book, That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class, is also being published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It's expected to be released in early 2022. Stay tuned for further details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page

———————

This DreamWidth blog is echoed on LiveJournal and WordPress. Please friend/link me from any of those environments on which you have an account.

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Listen to a Different Voice

"All I've taken away from your long-winded blatherings is that you are a straight, cisgender male that has feminine qualities", says Thomas. "Why can't you just embrace that, instead of needing a special word and claiming it's your identity? As far as I can tell, all this makes you... a straight cis male. You're like the male equivalent of a tomboy. Hey, most of us don't fit every stereotype, you know!"


Actually, "sissy" -- the male equivalent of a tomboy, as Thomas says -- was indeed one of the first "special words" I tried using to describe my situation.

So, sure, I can sit myself down and listen. I don't have to be all "you are wrong" and argumentative. I can consider you to be pitching an alternative formulation for me to consider. There are several communities of people I wish would do me the same favor, instead of telling me I am wrong if I say things differently than what they've decided is their truth.

Thomas -- who is totally on-board with gay and lesbian issues, and the concerns of transgender people who actually transition -- is echoing the sentiments of a lot of my gender-critical feminist colleagues. They, as you may know, are questioning the current social concepts about transgender people who transition.

Unlike Thomas, who sees me as very definitely not transgender, the gender critical feminists tend to conflate my situation and everything I say about it with the transgender phenomenon.

But where Thomas (and others who think like him) and the gender critical feminists tend to agree is: what I'm saying, and what I'm claiming as my identity, isn't valid or doesn't make sense.

Great. I'm a unifier.

Both the gender-critical feminists and Thomas keep telling me I should consider billing myself as a feminine male man.

Let's consider that.

I grew up with my childhood in the 1960s and my puberty, adolescence and early adulthood in the 1970s. That means I came of age alongside of feminism, and the voice of feminism told me double standards were unfair -- that if it was okay for girls and women to be feminine, it had to be okay for boys and men to be feminine. That it was sexist to have one set of traits, behaviors, characteristics, etc expected or required from one sex and a different set from the other. Which is in large part what the gender-critical feminists and Thomas and his ilk are offering me as an alternative formulation to how I present my gender identity these days.

I embraced those feminist ideas. They said I was valid. They said the people calling me names and telling me I wasn't "doing boy" correctly were not valid.

I embraced those ideas but they were insufficient. They didn't dive deep enough into the situation I would be in as a sissy feminine male person attracted to the female folks. That's mostly because feminism is about female liberation, and female experience. So the specifics were all about the aspects of female existence where sexist double standards impacted female people. Without specifics, just rejecting the notion of sexist double standards can be a lot like saying, As Anatole France did, that "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal loaves of bread".

Feminism dove into an immense number of situations to untangle how unequal priorities and treatments and expectations affected women. I didn't have access to a similar library of analyses of the situations I found myself in as a heterosexual sissy male in patriarchal society.

Queer theory emerged in the 80s as gay males started making this kind of systematic examination of the situations of non-heterosexual people. A lot of those observations were accepted, embraced, and incorporated by feminists as part of an expanded understanding of patriarchy. But transgender women and radical feminists had gotten off to a bad start and have never been on speaking terms, and don't tend to listen to each others' concepts and ideas. So as queer theory also started incorporating the experiences of transgender people, feminist theory and the nascent queer theory pushed off from each other somewhat, leaving lesbian feminists occasionally stranded or pulled on from both camps.

Me too. As I said, I grew up with feminism and found validation from it. But it wasn't examining my situation and neither were the new truths and assertions from transgender activism addressing it or speaking for me or giving me anything to hold onto.

The simple feminist "erase all gender expectations and have a unisex world" prescription, as voiced by Thomas and the gender critical feminists as described above, has shortcomings which I've addressed in these previous blog posts:

Androgyny & Unisex vs Being Differently Gendered

To Oppose Patriarchy: It's Different For Men

The people calling me names and telling me I wasn't "doing boy" correctly did not understand that I'd lost interest in "doing boy". The identity being shoved at me was social, not biological, and I declined it. I wasn't doing boy differently via being feminine and seeking acceptance as such; I reached the point where I had no interest in being accepted as a boy of any sort.



If we cannot use the word "oppression" to describe men's plight, how can we speak of it? That, of course, is the point: we cannot. Because patriarchy does not recognize the ultimate destructiveness of tyranny to tyrants, the fathers have no word-and therefore no concept-for the kind of dehumanization, the severe characterological damage, done to men by their use of violence of all kinds to dominate women and all "others". Men who are becoming conscious must find their own language for their experience.


-- Sonia Johnson, Going Out of Our Minds: the Metaphysics of Liberation

That is exactly what I sought out to do in the 1980s as a women's studies major (a tale which will be made available when my next book, That Guy in our Women's Studies Class, comes out next year), and what I am continuing to do now in writing these blog posts.

I can't do so "as a feminist", within feminism, as a part of the feminist community. Feminism, as I said, exists for the purpose of female liberation, and speaks from female experience; I can't really modify any part of it or add to it without being perceived as an interloper and an invader, at least by some, and while some people in the LGBTQIA world often also see and regard me as a hostile invasive force, it's constituted around multiple variant identities instead of one primary identity, which affords me more room to say "me too, move over". But that does mean finding ways of expressing my situation in terms and within concepts that are in use there.

It isn't phony: when I first came out in 1980, I specifically conceptualized myself as a fundamentally different identity from straight guys, gay guys, or transsexual women. I didn't see my concerns as the concerns of men within patriarchy but as the concerns of heterosexual sissies within patriarchy. So I'm not barging in to use the LGBTQIA voice for expediency reasons.

But I speak with my own voice. You should consider it, listen to it, regardless of your embrace (or lack of it) of either the transgender people's theories or the theories of feminism, and don't be in such a hurry to conflate everything that doesn't seem to come from your own camp with whatever you don't like about the perspectives you currently disagree with.

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My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.


My second book, That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class, is also being published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It's expected to be released in early 2022. Stay tuned for further details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page

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This DreamWidth blog is echoed on LiveJournal and WordPress. Please friend/link me from any of those environments on which you have an account.

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Kitten Robe II

Sewing is a good "exhibit a" sort of example of gender in the classic feminist sense. Gender, as distinguished from sex, in this formulation is something that is culturally associated with one of the sexes, but arbitrarily so, artificially so -- there's no built-in biological reason for it to be so, and it could be otherwise.

The distinction is a good and useful one, even if you happen to believe that some (or all) of gender actually is built in somehow. Perhaps (for instance), you believe that there is some type of hard-wiring in the brain that predisposes a person to be femme or masc, man or woman, regardless of whether their body developes with male (penis) or female (vagina) sexual morphology (or, for that matter, a configuration that doesn't map to either of those). The reason it's a good distinction is that it enables us to have a conversation about what is biological and what is cultural. And a conversation about people who believe it is all biological or about people who believe it is all cultural. Or people who believe Characteristic Five is mostly cultural but think that Characteristic Seventeen is a built-in biological difference between the sexes.

It's even a good distinction if you don't think it's an either/or proposition. I, in fact, don't, when you get right down to it. I think there are some traits that most people of the female sex in general tend to exhibit more strongly than most people of the male sex do, which tends to support the notion of a real built-in difference, but I think for those exact same traits we see some people of the male sex exhibiting them more strongly than most other male people and more strongly than all but a few female people as well. That is what happens when you have a lot of variation among males and a lot of variation among females and only a mild average variation between the sexes, and I think a lot of the differences that get incorporated into our cultural notion of gender folllow that pattern -- that there's probably a built-in tendency based on sex but since there's a wider range of differences among different male people and among different female people than there is between the sexes as a whole, you get a sizable minority of exceptions within each sex.

What makes sewing a particularly good example for such discussions is that in the modern era nearly everyone will agree that it is cultural, in part because it is mostly past-tense cultural. In the era when I attended junior high and high school, home economics was still required for the girls but not for the boys, and sewing was a part of the curriculum, but even by my generation only a handful of them took it up seriously and made an appreciable percent of their wardrobe on their own sewing machine. One hundred years ago, sure, women were expected to do so, and did, and hence most of the women you would have met were people who sewed. But in today's world, it's sort of a "lapsed gender trait" and if we know that someone is skilled with a needle and thread we don't automatically assume that person is a girl or woman. For many modern people, the last time they saw someone at a sewing machine was in a revival of The Fiddler on the Roof, and that someone was a male.


Last summer, I blogged about making a summer bathrobe, my first serious sewing project in eons. (I mostly just make patches for my blue jeans and sew on buttons and replace zippers). My partner anais_pf was my mentor and supervisor for the project. Well, the choice of kitten fabric for that robe was partly inspired by my existing winter bathrobe, a flannel bathrobe handmade by my mother, in a print with serious purposeful kittens in blue peering out from an off-white background.

Well, I've had that robe now for nearly 20 years and I've mostly worn it out. I've patched several holes in the neckline (the part where you hang it on a hook) and across the back and shoulders, but last winter it had reached the point of being ripped and tattered. Problem is, my mom died in 2018, so I have no source of mom-made bathrobes, so I'm emotionally attached to it and don't want to throw it out, you know? So the current bathrobe project was an intensive repair -- to trace the shape of the panel from the collar / neckband across the shoulders and back, the part where all the wear and tear occurs, and then cut out new flannel and sew it in from the inside.

Tracing the shape of a stretched and worn-out panel was a bit of an exercise in frustration! I finally managed, by pinning the old bathrobe down to a quilt, first, so that it would stay put. Then I traced along the neckline down the side and around the sleeve openings and cut out the resulting shape to get this shape in paper:

https://www.genderkitten.com/WS4/ah3files2/Robe/IMG_3620_sm.jpg

Folded the white flannel material in half and cut out that shape, resulting in a
bilaterally symmetrical insert.

Pinned it to the inside of the robe:

https://www.genderkitten.com/WS4/ah3files2/Robe/IMG_3603_sm.jpg

Began sewing the insert. Here you see where I'm matching it to the sleeve opening:

https://www.genderkitten.com/WS4/ah3files2/Robe/IMG_3604_sm.jpg

As much as possible, I'm attaching to existing seams:

https://www.genderkitten.com/WS4/ah3files2/Robe/IMG_3610_sm.jpg

Mostly done except for the bottom...

https://www.genderkitten.com/WS4/ah3files2/Robe/IMG_3606_sm.jpg

When I got to the bottom, I folded the edge under so that that surface would be protected from unravelling. But that wasn't an option for the other edges, since they had been cut to exactly match to the existing contours.

That meant that I was at risk of having all this work undo itself -- that the flannel would unravel out from under my stitches and make a mess. I had the notion of making a piping to lay over my stitches and sew it down, which would protect those raw edges from unravelling:

https://www.genderkitten.com/WS4/ah3files2/Robe/IMG_3612_sm.jpg

My partner anais_pf asked what I was up to and when I explained, said "Well, what you're doing is fine but it's a lot of work and you don't have to -- I have some seam binding you can use which will save you a lot of trouble".

So I began covering my stitches with seam binding:

https://www.genderkitten.com/WS4/ah3files2/Robe/IMG_3613_sm.jpg

Closeup of seam binding showing one edge being attached. Later I made a second pass attaching the other side:

https://www.genderkitten.com/WS4/ah3files2/Robe/IMG_3614_sm.jpg

Yay, it's complete!

https://www.genderkitten.com/WS4/ah3files2/Robe/IMG_3615_sm.jpg

Winter and summer kitten robes side by side:

https://www.genderkitten.com/WS4/ah3files2/Robe/IMG_3619_sm.jpg


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My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.


My second book, That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class, is also being published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It's expected to be released in early 2022. Stay tuned for further details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page

———————

This DreamWidth blog is echoed on LiveJournal and WordPress. Please friend/link me from any of those environments on which you have an account.

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What It Was Like Coming Out: An Ominous Bus Ride

Sometimes people ask me what it was like to come out genderqueer in 1980, when there was no term for that.

Most often, these questions take one of the following forms:

"How is that possible? I don't understand. You came out as something you'd never heard of, that didn't exist yet? Isn't that just refusing to be put into any box and saying you're an individual?"

or, mostly from people who've read the book --

"Well, in your book, it's like you know who you are, but you're still going around unsure, and you keep figuring it out whenever something new happens, but it takes, like, forever before you believe it. What made it finally click?"


So let me tell you about this really vivid image that came to me when I was right on the verge of coming out.

CW: Dark imagery with self-harm activities

I was on a bus, and it was circling through neighborhoods, different parts of town, you know, to let people off where they belong.

For a long time, different types of straight people were getting off, all excited and chattering away with each other. Sometimes couples holding hands, sometimes in clusters. On this block would be athletic guys and cheerleaders, let's say. Then at the next stop it would be educated-sounding people with briefcases, flirting the way people do in offices. There were different ethnic parts of town, where the cultural differences in dress and behavior were different from the previous stops. I don't mean people were being delivered to ethnic barrios and ghettos but rather that they were getting off to join in cultural expressions that called to them, and where they would be accepted. Then it's like there were different sexual attitudes or viewpoints, like a stop where everyone was dressed in leather and carrying paddles and whips, then one where everyone was holding Bibles and dressed in Sunday suits, and one where the people were accusing each other of cheating and were all angry and yanking on someone's hand or trying to hit each other, but still getting off together.

Then we seemed to come to the gay section of town. Nice dressed guys with an earring and a bandanna sticking out of a pocket, saying clever things as they got off at one stop, then the next stop had muscular guys in skimpy clothes, and at the next stop several guys in drag vamping and sashaying, then some couples holding hands and being sweet to each other.

Then lesbians for a few stops, a cluster of cute perky women with pool sticks high-fiving each other and laughing at some kind of in-jokes, then some menacingly tough gals slouching their way to the door, a handful of academic women in serious conversation...

All this time I'm happy for all these other people as they get off, because they're at home and going to events and situations that make them happy, and we all get to have that, right? and life is good, diversity is good, you know?

And the bus starts letting off trans people, in my head somehow I know that's who they are, people who have transitioned or are in the middle of transitioning, going out... not into trans neighborhoods, but transphoric ones, where they'll be accepted and meet nice new partners and friends and associates.

By the time the bus has finished making those stops, some with louder partying people and some with quieter, more serious folks, the bus doesn't have many people left on it, and I'm getting uneasy and wishing we'd hurry up and get to my stop, the place where people like me get off.

Because, before, there were bright lights, streetlights and storefronts and traffic lights and lit up businesses and people's houses and all, but now it's mostly dark out there. The bus stops and some people shuffle to the front, talking to themselves and gesturing with abrupt jerky motions. We go around the corner and there's barbed wire and broken glass everywhere, it's some kind of industrial part of town, like old warehouses, big buildings with no windows. At the next stop someone all hunched over and bent goes down the aisle, rubbing at their crotch with one hand, masturbating in public, and holding an open bottle of vodka in the other. I watch out the bus window to see someone else getting off the bus who suddenly takes out a handgun and shoots themself in the head as the bus pulls away.



Clearly, this is all wrong, I must have missed my stop, I have to start over.


So it's like instant replay. I look longingly at some of the nice hetero groups as they get off, but no, even though I'm a male person and my attraction is to female people, I'm not like them. I grew up being one of the girls. One of the churchy girls makes eye contact and smiles kind of regretfully. I watch some of the femme gay guys and how they seem comfortable and confident. Being femme, being sissy, means I've been targeted by homophobia along with them, but I don't belong there either. I'd really like to follow the lesbian pool player with the jaunty denim jacket and the little leather cap, but she shakes her head.

I watch the trans people at the next few stops, seeing them descend the stairs. I wish I could follow them. They've been riding the bus for a long time and they're celebrating. But this isn't a neighborhood I can live in either.


Yes, I know how I am, but I don't know what it makes me. I could put it in words. Watch. I don't even have to say anything out loud, it's as if people can hear what I'm thinking, and I can hear them the same way. Simplifies things. "Wait", I 'say' to the last group of well-dressed trans women. "I was always one of the girls too. Never wanted to be like the boys. I just want a girlfriend, but I don't want to be a boy".

"Well you look like a boy. We could give you some tips if you want."

"But I'm not female, I'm a male girl"

The trans woman glances at her friends and they slowly shake their heads. "Nobody in these parts is gonna get that". They get off together.


I could put it into words, but there's nobody to say "Oh, yeah, I get it, that makes sense to me", let alone "Yeah, welcome home, you're one of us".

There's almost nobody left on the bus once again, and the ones who are, they don't look so good, and there's no lights outside, and I don't like this... what's going to happen to me?



It wasn't easy to believe I should get off the damn bus in the middle of nowhere, in the dark. With no community. It wasn't easy to stop going back and rehashing all the identities that didn't fit, the stops where I didn't belong, in hopes that I'd somehow missed something, somewhere.

But eventually I had to.

That's what it was like.




———————


Do you want a broader sense of what it was like?

My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.


My second book, That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class, is also being published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It's expected to be released in early 2022. Stay tuned for further details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page

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This DreamWidth blog is echoed on LiveJournal and WordPress. Please friend/link me from any of those environments on which you have an account.

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A Letter to my Socialist Friends and Colleagues

I say I'm not a socialist; I'm less than enthused when you want our group to affirm in one of its planks that we are.

You say, "I'm surprised and disappointed, Allan". You say, "I really would have thought that you'd be on the side of the poor and the working class. That you'd see that the system is rigged against them, unfairly. I never knew you were a friend of the bankers and corporations and such an ally to the rich and powerful. But seriously, you think capitalism is fair and that people get what they deserve in the free market?"

So we need to have a conversation.




A lot of my friends and associates in the Green Party, among feminists, and within the LGBTQIA+ community, when they say "socialist", mostly mean "Gee, capitalism is unfair, most of the people doing the work don't get the benefits, and it's set up that way, and I'm against all that" and so on.

But would you consider yourself a radical feminist for thinking, "Gee, it's a man's world and it's unfair to women"? Radical feminism is more than just that, there's an attempt to get a handle on why, and how it works and what to do about it and how it should be instead. Socialism, as I think of it, is that way too. It contains a theory of what the oppression and exploitation is, and why it exists; it identifies causes and mechanisms of power and inequality, it defines relationships between categories of people. It diagnoses the problem and it proposes a solution.

Radical feminism says that it all started with sex and reproduction, that sexual inequality arose between the male and female people of our species -- that it wasn't inevitable or natural, and doesn't have to be that way, but somehow became that way, a male supremacy system where men had power over women, and that later that inequality became a blueprint for disempowering and oppressing other categories of people.

Socialism says that it all started with property and control of the means of production, that wealth inequality arose between those who owned or controlled the land (and, later, other means of production, e.g. factories etc) and those who did the labor. In the era when Marx formulated his theories, it was radical to insist that it wasn't inevitable or natural to have a nobility and a working class. Socialism says it doesn't have to be that way, but it became that way, and that fundamental inequality became a blueprint for disempowering and oppressing other categories of people as well.

I hope that when stated that way, you can see that all the intersectionality in the world still leaves us with a disagreement between these theories. They can both be right about the oppression of the working class and the oppression of women, and about how one form of oppression can be mirrored in how yet another category of people get oppressed. But they can't so easily both be right about their sense of where the root of the problem lies. And it goes deeper, as roots tend to.



Radical feminism, or at least most of it, does not posit that male people are inherently the enemy of equality or that they represent a permanent threat of oppression. But socialism specifically fingers the ruling class, the wealthy oligarchs, the wealthy, as inherently oppressors. The social construction of their class directly depends on exploitation and oppression of the majority, and their very existence, along with the system that enshrines them, are the reason the problem exists in the first place.

Part of the difference is due to the realness of biological sexual dimorphism and the artificiality of class. There is the sense that the ruling class are who they are because of their behaviors, because of their participation in the system that rewards them and exploits the others. In contrast, in a radical feminist context, while the same case can be made that male people are responsible for their participation in patriarchy, we assume they would still be male whether they participated or they didn't, collectively and individually.

Socialism points a finger. "Those people", it says, identifying the ruling class, the rich owners of the means of production, "it is their fault, they are the reason capitalism exists and they are the force that perpetuates it".

Radical feminism, despite its (un)popular image as a hateful indictment of men, actually is a lot more nuanced. Most radical feminist theory recognizes that if male dominance isn't built-in biological as part of nature, it has to be explained; something besides maleness needs to have caused it and to be responsible for the problem.

So socialism has a central adversarial streak. It has culprits in a way that radical feminism does not. Radical feminists may state that males benefit from patriarchy, and have a tendency to support the patriarchy in their behaviors because of how they perceive their personal interests, but they also tend to state that feminism will be of benefit to everyone, not just women, whether men realize it or not.

This makes a significant difference to me. There is an undertone of hate and blame, of culprit-blaming and resentment, in socialism. I find it detrimental, conservative, politically cancerous.



Socialist thought contains an inconsistency in how class is viewed. Historically, Marxist thought on the relationship between classes and individuals who were of those classes held that people's identities and interests are shaped by their class. As one of the original prototypes of what became the field of Sociology, this theory tended to treat individuals as blank slates. As I said before, it was radical for its time to posit that the built-in nature of people did not differ, that we were all the same at heart, and that only our social conditions turned us into lords of the manor or peasants of the field. And the classic finger-pointing was actually aimed at the class of people, the ruling class, and not the individual people who comprise it. So it isn't entirely fair on my part to say that socialism hates individual wealthy people and blames them as culprits, as in the formal sense it doesn't, it views all individuals as puppets of their upbringing and social status. But while you can have a revolution against a class of people, when you line them up against the wall you still end up dealing with individual people.

In order to explain how the masses of people are kept from always already being in a state of revolution against the minority of wealthy bourgeois ruling class, Marxism, and the socialist thought that built upon it, speaks of false conscousness and class consciousness. But when you start off with individuals painted as blank slates whose consciousness is caused by their class membership and social situation, there isn't much room to examine the process of perceiving, realizing, knowing. Or of being misled, fooled, deluded into believing the ruling class's ideologies and propaganda about proper place and capitalism as a meritocracy and so forth. Socialist consideration of consciousness, identity, and social participation is clumsy and limited.

Radical feminism's view of the individual isn't a blank slate model. There is a strong thread of thought within radical feminism that revalorizes emotional cognitive processing, both as a critique of patriarchal worship of emotionally detached logic and reason, and as a key to intuition, seeing past what has been taught, seeing through even an omnipresent social ideology.

It's inherently better at not collapsing the individual person into their membership in a category, and to see all the categories and all social structures as participatory behaviors of individuals, not as things in themselves.

The socialist will often consider the individual person who has privileges within the oppressive world and think to themselves, "This person has the power to stop the oppression but doesn't". Or they may not merely think this to themselves but say it loudly, while pointing the finger.

It isn't like that. Power, first off, isn't what the world tends to think it is. What patriarchal ideology says that it is. Power over other people isn't a substance that the powerful possess, the way one possesses a candy bar. Power is a social relationship. It is defined within social structure, and, within that structure, the powerful are as thoroughly defined by it as the powerless. Radical feminism shows us that all structures are dances, verbs, processes that individuals engage in, and do not have genuine existence as nouns outside of that. But one individual, one dancer, can't use the power defined for that position to do completely other things with it. One can occasionally abdicate, but in leaving the dance floor one leaves behind the power; one does not get much opportunity to weild that power to stop the dance. It just doesn't work that way.

There is power to effect change, and it lies in communication. To modify the dance, one must engage with the other dancers and compare notes and change behaviors, and there are ways in which the privileges and opportunities of the powerful do make some actions possible at the individual level that are not available to the less privileged, but to far lesser and more intricately nuanced degree than implied by the socialist's glare.




The socialist shows up at the meeting with a military bearing, serious and ready to engage in the struggle, committed to the cause, deliberately dangerous to the oppressors and adversaries, and prepared to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to triumph in the revolution. It's an attitude, a way of framing the approach. Sometimes you can almost see the olive drab fatigues and the cartridge belt.

View it from a radical feminist perspective. It's hard to get more masculine than military. The adversarial oppositional approach, the erasure of sensitivity in favor of blunt realpolitik, the sacrificing of gentle inclinations, the cessation of patience and flexibility in favor of demands and the undercurrent of threat.

Communication, as I said, is power, the real power to change things. One communicates by being open, sharing, listening, caring, merging one's perceptions with another's. We are all socially situated and none of us had more than a peripheral range of choice in picking our social situation. Blame has no useful role, and picking fights with the other dancers in the dance won't often increase the likelihood of listening and learning. Anger has a valid role in communication but it needs to be accompanied by compassion.



———————


Do you counsel young people trying to sort out their gender identity? You should read my book! It's going to add a new entry to your map of possibilities when you interact with your clients!

My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.


My second book, That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class, is also being published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It's expected to be released in late 2021. Stay tuned for further details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page

———————

This DreamWidth blog is echoed on LiveJournal and WordPress. Please friend/link me from any of those environments on which you have an account.

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Index of all Blog Posts
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The Amazons' OTHER Brothers: Encounters with Other Male Feminists

I emigrated to New York City in 1984 in hopes of finding my people, other sissy femme males tired of the shit we have to put up with in this patriarchal society, other femme fellows who had had enough of it and had become social activists about it. And to join the feminists, my sisters who had most visibly indicted sexist expectations and gender polarization and the rigid division of society by sex.

I expected us to be a voice on the margins of the gay rights folks' movement, and I expected us to be engaging with the feminist women, but most of all identifying what our own social issues were and developing a platform, creating a voice of our own in this society.

I never found that.




I did eventually find other male people who had a positive response to feminism. Not in person, not in groups where we sat on chairs in the same room and discussed such things, unfortunately, but once I got into graduate school, in the early 1990s, I discovered communities over the internet. "Internet" at that time was mostly not something you encountered using a web browser, but instead was centered on the phenomenon of electronic mail -- email -- and the opportunity to subscribe to LISTSERV lists. Every day, my mailbox on the university account would have a digest of all the posts that the group participants had made, and we'd reply to each other or post new manifestos and screeds and discuss men and gender and feminism.

I was told early and often that we should not refer to ourselves as "feminists". That had been decided. Some (although not all) feminist women felt that men cannot be feminists, and therefore some (although not all) of the males in these groups embraced that notion and ran with it. There were dissenters, but in general anyone who participated was at risk of being treated as an insufficiently reformed part of the patriarchal problem if they persisted. Our role, I was told, was to be supportive of feminism, to be "pro-feminist", and to examine our own behavior as males and to challenge the behavior of other males when we saw it as problematic. Let the women lead -- it's their movement, and men have led enough things on this planet, do us good to be followers for a change.

I wrote often about the different sexual situation of a feminine sissy femme male whose sexual orientation is towards female people -- how it subverts the patriarchal heterosexual institution, on the one hand, but at the same time how our lives at the individual level are complicated by a world with rigidly gendered sex roles for heterosexual flirting, dating, courting, and coupling.

Sometimes those posts were celebrated and embraced and discussed. More often, they were derailed and sidetracked into discussions about whether or not a person can be a pro-feminist male if they still have sexual fantasies of power, dominance, and interests in the female body that could be considered objectification.

To be fair, the PROFEM list was the one most explicitly geared to male people embracing feminism. I had joined some others that were less narrowly focused, where people were endorsing John Bly and Sam Keen, and talking about going to weekend retreats to beat drums and get in touch with essential masculinity. But I wanted to get in touch with essential femininity.

I was looking for the self-defined political concerns of the heterosexual feminine male. The non-feminist groups were focused on our needs and our growth as males, but for the most part I wasn't encountering males who thought of themselves the way I did, and although there wasn't a universal hostility towards feminism and feminist beliefs, there were a lot of recurrent arguments about it.

The pro-feminist group, meanwhile, wasn't focused on our needs and growth. It was focused on repentance.

I grew up in the south, surrounded by Protestant Christians ranging from establishment to charismatic born-again, so I was quite familiar with competitive self-immolation and ostentatious wallowing in the despair of our sinfulness.

In the midst of one of the perennial discussions of whether this or that aspect of sexual nature is tolerable and permissible for pro-feminist men, one person began a reply with, "Let me be the first to acknowledge that feminists are right when they say..." and I imagined someone interrupting, "Oh no, let me be the first!"

I wryly acknowledged to myself that I wasn't immune to this. You call together a congregation of males whose personal self-identity is based on not being like the other males, I suppose it is inevitable that we still want to push off from other males. To find fault with them. To find our validation from once again seeing ourself as different from the other males.

But the biggest problem that I saw was that most of the participants were not at all sure that it was okay to be in this in search of our own interests. If the problem is patriarchy, if the problem is male oppression, then shouldn't we be practicing self-abnegation? That attitude meant that for the most part, we were not examining and critiquing the quality of our lives, coming at this from our own experience the way that women in consciousness-raising groups do.

One person made this telling observation:

>Trivializing is a big problem. We are not supposed to complain. I continually
trivialize, downplay, demean anything that happens to me. My problems aren't
really serious.<


But to complain was to be perceived as selfish:


"I have my own concerns that bring me here", I wrote, "I'm not here to be a chivalrous white knight on behalf of women".

"Oh", someone responded, "so you have to make it all about YOU, got it".




For a book club that I'm in, I'm reading a book about the Combahee River Collective and the Black feminists' statement thereof that made waves in the 1970s. The Black feminists recognized that Black men are allies, even if also sometimes direct behavioral participants in the oppression of women, and they categorically refused separatism. Likewise, they recognized that white women are allies, even if also at times overt participants in racist oppression, and they refused to be polarized against their sisters either. They felt that they could reach and teach, and also that they needed these alliances if they were going to have the necessary impact on the world.

Similarly, gay men have often been acknowledged by feminists as allies, even though they still have male privilege and do sometimes participate in oppressing women; feminists see that the gay male has a different vantage point and brings some useful insights and perspectives to the table, and has an understandable personal interest in overturning patriarchy.

The goal was to establish that the same is true for sissy femme males who don't happen to be gay. We have male privilege and we have hetero privilege and we even may have cis privilege (those of us who do not present to the world as transgender) and yet we are marginalized by patriarchy, damaged by it, and I wanted us to have our own voice, our own movement.


Still looking.



———————


Do you counsel young people trying to sort out their gender identity? You should read my book! It's going to add a new entry to your map of possibilities when you interact with your clients!

My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.


My second book, That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class, is also being published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It's expected to be released in late 2021. Stay tuned for further details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page

———————

This DreamWidth blog is echoed on LiveJournal and WordPress. Please friend/link me from any of those environments on which you have an account.

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Index of all Blog Posts
comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth -- https://ahunter3.dreamwidth.org/79538.html#comments

Identity and The Passage of Time

She's a TERF. That's not my judgment on her, she calls herself that, proudly. And I discuss things with her because, a), I'm interested in having an impact on anyone willing to engage with me, and b), because she's intelligent.

(But yeah, content warning and all that, consider yourself forewarned, mmkay?)


So she says, "It's not about the rightness or wrongness of how they think of themselves. He, I mean I guess I would be offending by saying 'he', this person born with cock and balls, this person can say 'I am a woman', and I am not saying to...them... that no, you can't call yourself that in your head. What I'm talking about is whether or not I need to regard this person as my sister. That's my perception, not his...theirs. We see things differently, and I'm not saying only one way is right. But when I speak of women, I mean something that doesn't include that person. When she speaks to say she is a woman, she doesn't get to tell me I have to agree that she is in the way that I use language. This is a person who feels... that who they are is feminine, that they are woman. That doesn't mean, however, that this person has had our experience. I was born female. The other women I talk with in our feminist group, they were born female. We were treated and regarded in a different way than anyone born with cock and balls. It's a different experience. And she...they... the person of whom I'm speaking, does not have that experience. That's all I'm saying".


I nod, because this makes sense. I have always had male privileges due to being perceived as a male person, even if that's been often massively attenuated by being perceived as a sissy femme pansy fruity effeminate male. I would walk into a new situation and eyeballs would recognize me as a male person even if the male people in my cohort did not regard me as one of them, and I myself didn't ever want to be. That much is true.

"But you hate the ways boys grow up needing to prove that they're not you", I tell her. Which is also true. She and her feminist sisters have examined how young boys growing up are methodically taught, under patriarchy, to recognize any behavior, any value judgment, any tiny little nuace, as feminine, and to push away from it. Among these things are emotional processing things, feelings, sensitivities. Why do feminists consider men to be damaged goods (and not, I might add, without good reason)? Because they distance themselves from a wide range of emotional reactions to things. They start doing this when they are in elementary school. They shut down to a certain range of feelings. And years tick by and that has an effect on how they grow up. It shapes them. It affects their awareness. It affects their sense of priorities. So many years later, if this or that male person says they embrace feminism, and is totally on board with it, that doesn't mean they aren't still largely shaped by the identity that they embraced, back when they were children, trying to measure up to being a boy, being a man, and all that means that their head is in a different space and despite their embrace of feminist politics they can't be fully trusted to think like the rest of us who do so, they're still male, and they'll behave differently and have different priorities that creep in and whatnot.

So for the second time in two consecutive blog posts, I am telling feminists: you can't have it both ways.


If someone born with the "cock and balls" configuration decides pretty early on that the people that are "we" in a relevant sense happen to be the girls, that person is going to spend year after year in situations where they're informed that this or that choice, this or that behavior, this or that priority, is one that the girls would normally make, and that boys generally don't. And they'd embrace the girl side. And that would shape us. It would shift our thinking and our awarenesses and our sensitivities. Whether we at some point announced our identities as "transgender woman" or as "nonbinary demigirl" or as "male femmes" (as I do), or as something else, we are departures from the very same toxic identity that as feminists you keep saying you want to see males move away from.

We did. We are not, of course, doing it for you. We're doing it for us. We aren't necessarily doing it quite as you'd envisioned it. But we're doing it. And we bloody well deserve a bit more respect than you're currently giving us.


Yeah. You have certain experiences as female folk designated as such and treated as such since birth. That we don't have. Fine.

That has limited trajectory as an argument. It doesn't cover all the disinclusiveness that you've promoted.

I never identified as female. I did, however, identify as radical feminist. Some of you said I couldn't. So I'm coming at this from a different angle than the transgender women but we have stuff in common: you're Othering us.

Stop it.



———————


Do you counsel young people trying to sort out their gender identity? You should read my book! It's going to add a new entry to your map of possibilities when you interact with your clients!

My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.


My second book, That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class, is also being published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It's expected to be released in late 2021. Stay tuned for further details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page

———————

This DreamWidth blog is echoed on LiveJournal and WordPress. Please friend/link me from any of those environments on which you have an account.

————————


Index of all Blog Posts
comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth -- https://ahunter3.dreamwidth.org/79194.html#comments