Femininity in Contrast to Femaleness

affirming_negating


Femininity and womanhood are gender identity terms, but more fundamentally than that, they are socially shared notions, and what they are notions about, historically speaking, are female people.

I have male parts (or at least the parts that led my mom's obstetrician to put "male" on my birth certificate—and for the record I call them male parts myself). But I'm definitely a femme, and I'm happy to be living in 2020 where gender identity has been somewhat split off from physical bodily architecture.

But it doesn't avail us anything to pretend that the feminine gender identities don't have diddly squat to do with physical femaleness. The socially shared concepts and roles, and the accompanying notions about a feminine person's beliefs and attitudes and priorities, personality and behavioral nuances and tastes and so on, didn't originate independently and then somehow get ideologically and artificially attached to the female physical morphology. The notions were originally notions about female people. They may not have correctly or adequately described female people in general, and they certainly did not correctly or adequatly describe all female people; and because this has long been a patriarchy, this human society of ours, there may indeed have been ideological content stirred into the pot along with the generalizations. But the gender identity is social; it exists as a bundle of shared concepts, and the subject matter that the concepts were originally and historically concepts about were people who had vaginas and ovaries and fallopian tubes, the biological females of our species.

Now, even as increasing numbers of us find personal validation in gender identities that don't correspond to the physical morphology to which those identities were originally and historically attached, some of that past still haunts us.

You'll recall that I said this society has historically been a patriarchy. One thing that means is that the most established socially shared notions about pretty much anything are men's ideas. To be more specific, cisgender heterosexual men's ideas. Because the viewpoints of other people weren't being spoken in public, weren't being published. So views and attitudes that were really only the views and attitudes of these men got put out there as default views and attitudes. That applies to a lot of subjects, but at the moment let's focus on the definition of women.

Top of the list: sexual attractiveness, the desirability quotient, one's value as a sexual commodity. These days we refer to it as the "male gaze" but it used to be discussed as if women's sexual appeal was intrinsic to the women and men were just noticing it. Because "attractive to cis het men" was defaulted, universalized into "attractive". Because women's usefulness in patriarchy was largely constrained to their usefulness as mates to men.

Women may have meant more to each other, and to themselves, but their opinions weren't being enshrined. I wrote earlier of a feminine person's beliefs and attitudes and priorities, personality and behavioral nuances and tastes and so on — all components of her gender identity as a woman. Those are all aspects of the self that a woman may find validation in, may take pride in, but all that has tended to be overshadowed by the focus on sexual desirability, aka sexual desirability as determined by an audience of cis het male people and their appetites.

Why is this relevant to today's gender identity discussion? Because sexual attraction often tends to be "to a body structure". (And that, too, has been culturally emphasized.) In short, sexual orientation has been geared not so much towards what we speak of as gender identity, but to the physical morphology, to shape and contour. So the most emphasized, the most underlined, aspect of what it means to be a woman is to have female curves and contours and the relevant female organs. That shoves beliefs and attitudes and priorities, personality and behavioral nuances and tastes, etc, into the background.

Someone in a Facebook group posted a meme stating "It's not sex change, it's gender-affirming surgery". Well, that's wrong. It's not gender-affirming surgery, its SEX-affirming surgery. If a person's gender identity as a woman is 100% valid whether they have a penis or a vagina, then obtaining surgical services to modify their physical structure so that any visual observers will assign it "vagina" doesn't affirm their gender. It affirms their SEX, as female.

Of course, being attractive to the heterosexual male gaze really is central to some people's sense of their feminine identity. It's what's most emotionally important to them about being a woman, as opposed to singing alto arias or becoming a really good seamstress or something. Nothing wrong with that.

But not everyone who identifies as woman or femme or girl is primarily concerned with appealing to the male gaze. Of having a sexually desirable appearance as filtered through the fakely universalized male gaze.


The centrality of the whole "do you look sexy, can you compete with the sexy women of the world in sexy appearance?" question is often used to invalidate feminine people. It is used to invalidate many cis women for whom it simply isn't the end-all and be-all of their self-worth. It is used to invalidate many trans women for whom being evaluated in terms of how well they "pass" as a sexually desirable specimen gets to be old and tiresome.

Well, it is also used to invalidate the identity of people like me, who definitively do not identify as female, who do not transition, who do not attempt to present as female-bodied people, who distinguish between physical sex and gender and identify as male women, male femmes, male girls.

I get a lot of pushback about it. People who say "It's nobody's business what you got in your underpants" when what they really mean is "You've got no business having that attitude of 'yeah I'm male, so what', that's the wrong attitude about your male parts, we're all supposed to be going around saying 'it doesn't matter'". But what actually doesn't matter to me is being found sexy in that sense. Sexy to the falsely universal male gaze. I am male. Sure I want to be found sexy... to people who specifically like the male physical morphology. Since that's the morphology I've got. And I'm a male girl. My gender-atypical identity doesn't have a damn thing to do with claiming femaleness, regardless of whether yours does or not.

———————

You're secluded in quarantine, and all the performances and events have been cancelled, so it's a good time to read a book!

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.


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

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I've Finished Book Two! That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class!

Well, I've finished rewriting it from scratch from the ground up at any rate. It's still a rough draft, and at the same time I didn't just compose it, either.


It existed previously. The raw material text for both GenderQueer and for That Guy in our Women's Studies Class was generated as part of my autobiographical tome that I wrote between 2010 and 2013. I extracted and edited and named That Guy in our Women's Studies Class as long ago as 2014. I even sent out some query letters!

But honestly it just wasn't a very good book. Whereas I would proofread and edit GenderQueer with pride, Guy in WS kept making me wince. And at some point I recognized that it belonged in a trunk, perhaps to be revised and redone at some future point, and I focused on getting GenderQueer published.

I came back to it in May of 2019. At the time, I was mired down in my efforts with the main book, and I needed a project, something to give me a sense of progress and accomplishment.

In my writer's group, Amateur Writers of Long Island, I quit bringing in excerpts from GenderQueer, which I considered to be a finished book, and began bringing in my work in progress, Guy in WS, the way the other authors were doing, so that I'd get feedback on what I was currently focusing on as a writer.

GenderQueer was accepted for publication in September and for a lot of the following four months I was pretty narrowly focused on that. But during the Coronavirus era, with my book out but no prospect for addressing audiences as a guest speaker, I dove back into it.


That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class (second beta version)

95,000 words in three large units. Chapter divisions to be created later. A mostly autobiographical account of my years in college trying to utilize women's studies as a means to speak and write about my different gender / experience with society's notions about what it means to be male / being a sissy, etc.

It's not quite as absolutely nonfictional as GenderQueer is. In broad strokes, it is, but I took more liberties with moving conversations and discussions into contexts where they made a more interesting story line. Where GenderQueer is about 98 % truth (or as much so as I'm capable of remembering it), Guy in WS is around 85 %.

If you have any interest in being a beta reader of what is still really a work in progress, shoot me a personal message or email and let me know.


———————

You're secluded in quarantine, and all the performances and events have been cancelled, so it's a good time to read a book!

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.


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

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

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Just

"I don't see why that makes it a different gender identity", someone informs me. (I visualize them with their arms crossed and scowling). "Why can't you just say you're a man with a lot of traits that are generally associated with women?"

OK, I'll give you your answer.

It's sitting there inside your question. You said just.

We often say "just" to mean merely, or less than: "Why do I have to mop the floor? Can't I just sweep up the crumbs and dirt with a broom?"

When you suggest I should "just" identify as a man with a bunch of feminine traits, it sounds like you're saying that the identity terms I'm using -- genderqueer, gender invert, being a male girl -- is more audacious, a stronger statement. That I'm making a bigger deal out of the difference than you think I ought to.

But it is a big deal. That's the point.


On the other hand, sometimes we say "just" to mean simpler even when it isn't less than: "It's taking forever to clip the burrs out of Blackie's fur. Why don't we just dip him in a vat of Nair and wait for his hair to grow back, it would be easier!"

You're not doing that. You're not using "just" in that way. I could, though: "Why would I want to spend my life explaining that I'm a male with a lot of traits and tastes that are more typically associated with women than with men? Why can't I just say I'm a male girl?"

The way I express my identity has a "let's cut to the chase" simplicity to it.


———————

You're secluded in quarantine, and all the performances and events have been cancelled, so it's a good time to read a book!

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.


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

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

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My Book's First Review in an LGBTQIA+ Publication

From Sherri Rase, Out In Jersey:


Allan D. Hunter’s GenderQueer: A Story from a Different Closet is an eye-opening first-person account of Derek, born male, who identifies as a girl. While this hardly raises an eyebrow in the 21st century, in the 1970s, Derek had no role models and no points of reference.

If you are of a generation with Derek, give or take, you thrill with him at his first car, put wings on his heart. You feel the rush of first love, and first touch, when attraction becomes physical. You feel the pain of rejection and being misunderstood.

You may not be able to read the book in one sitting—it takes time to absorb.


"Three Great Books for LGBTQ Summer Reading"




I've had nice reviews in college newspapers and an interview in the mainstream press (Newsday), but this is my first review in an LGBTQIA-centric publication, and I'm excited about it!



———————

You're secluded in quarantine, and all the performances and events have been cancelled, so it's a good time to read a book!

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.


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

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

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Gender Invert, or Nonbinary Trans?

Like most people born with a penis and testicles, I was AMAB: assigned male at birth.

I don't refer to myself as transgender because I don't seek to be perceived as a female person. And I don't tend to identify as nonbinary because I don't seek to be perceived as someone who is neither male nor female.

I identify as genderqueer and, more specifically, as a gender invert.

* * *

There are a lot of ongoing discussions, especially within the trans communities, about how you don't have to be on hormones, don't have to get an operation, to be valid as a transgender person. About how the legitimacy of one's identity as transgender does not depend on changing one's body.

The ones who do — the people conventionally designated as "male to female" or "female to male" — are nowadays often referred to as "binary transgender". And the assertion that you don't have to be binary trans in order to be authentically trans is an affirmation of nonbinary transgender identities.

The fact that there are so many posts and statements saying so is a clear sign that a lot of people think "transgender" means that if you were assigned male at birth you wish to be perceived as female, accepted as a woman, not differentiated from cisgender women, that you present as female, that you do everything at your disposal to do so successfully, that you seek to pass. And reciprocally the other way around if you were assigned female at birth.

That's what the term "transgender" means to a lot of people out there, both within the trans community itself and in the mainstream.


Hello. I am a person who could identify as a "nonbinary transgender" person.

I don't choose to do so. I don't feel like it communicates. I feel like it just confuses people. They make one set of wrong assumptions when they see me and mentally assign me as a male person. If I tell them I'm transgender they make a different set of wrong assumptions and I'm no better off.

Meanwhile, out there are a bunch of male-to-female and female-to-male transgender folks. A handful of them are "truscum" or "transmedicalist" and don't consider anyone to be authentically trans unless they seek a medical transition. Then there are quite a few more who don't have that kind of absolute judgemental definitional thing going on, but who will admit to missing the days when the only kind of trans people were binary trans. I'm not going to say they're right, especially since so many of my friends and colleagues identify as nonbinary transgender. But I have to confess, I sympathize with them and their viewpoint. Many of them have been around as long as I have. That means they lived through decades when most of society had only heard dirty jokes and porn references to trans people. And some of them feel like they did the hard work to get transgender issues in front of the social consciousness and now all these newfangled nonbinary trans people want to be a part of the phenomenon.

There's a reason why there aren't more people identifying as I do, as gender invert. It's because they haven't heard the term. Nobody offered it to them as an option to consider. So they went with "transgender". Or "nonbinary". Or "nonbinary transgender".

But what if you were assigned male at birth, you consider your body to be, in fact, male, but your gender isn't masculine, isn't man, isn't guy, isn't boy, that instead you are femme, one of the girls? Or if you were assigned female at birth, recognize your body to be female, but have never been a girl or a woman, and instead you're all man, all guy, all boy, totally a masculine individual?

If you say "transgender" and folks know you were AFAB they'll almost universally assume you identify as "male". If you say "transgender" and they understand you were AMAB, they'll assume you to identify as "female".

Specifying "nonbinary transgender" just shifts the problem. Now people are likely to assume that you don't want to be identified as any named sex or gender. That you're declaring yourself to be neither male nor female, neither man nor woman.

If what I'm saying resonates for you, you're welcome to come join me as a gender invert instead.




———————

You're secluded in quarantine, and all the performances and events have been cancelled, so it's a good time to read a book!

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.


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

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

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comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth -- https://ahunter3.dreamwidth.org/65207.html#comments

Interviewed for a PodCast — Off The Cuffs

Interviewed for a PodCast — Off The Cuffs


On May 20, I was invited back to Off The Cuffs, a Kink and BDSM Podcast, to talk about my book and about gender identity and being genderqueer.


I say "invited back" because this was a reinterview. Back in 2016, during the interval between signing a contract with Ellora's Cave and Ellora's Cave going bankrupt and cancelling all outstanding contracts, I had made arrangements to be the guest on Off The Cuffs. But by the December episode date, my book's fate was back in limbo. As it turned out, that was the least of the difficulties with my appearance on their show: the recording equipment or the software, one or the other, misbehaved and the sound file from that evening was unusable.


The episode this time sprawled out somewhat, in part because the hosts, Dick and Max, knew me and had already discussed the book and its subject matter with me once before and had had time to think about it since then, and in part because there were some really good questions posed by audience members which prompted long discussions of their own. So the occasion was split into two consecutive Podcasts:





212 – We Have To Go Back
by Off the Cuffs: a Kink & BDSM Podcast | May 20, 2020 | Podcast

This week we sat down with Allan Hunter for part one of our discussion about the journey of coming out as gender queer in the 80s, long before the concept was in the cultural conversation.


Dick: "Allan, when we did this before...I kind of remember not understanding where you were coming from and I think just with... learning from other people and about gender identities and such, I remember from things I said back then. I feel like I'm more prepared to have a conversation with you than I was four year ago. Just in the past few years as a society we've been coming to this, but Allan, this was in the 1980s... the only ideas back then was like if you were transgender and wanting to change from one body to another ..."

Max: "Or things like men who like to wear women's clothing..."

Dick: "Yeah, it was a time when there wasn't even a glimpse of the language that we have to describe these things now."



213 – Jump to Conclusions
by Off the Cuffs: a Kink & BDSM Podcast | May 27, 2020 | Podcast

This week we continue our chat with Allan Hunter in part two of our discussion about the journey of coming out as gender queer in the 80s. We have some questions from our listeners...


Two questions -- first, as you began your journey of self discovery to genderqueer sometime ago, have you found attitudes have changed much in how other gender nonconforming people respond to you? It seems at times very human for people to become attached to very dogmatic veiws on what a word means especially when attached to how they identify themselves, to the point that people trying to find a space for themselves within a identy word can try to reject others trying to do the same with a different perspective on the same word? If that has been in your experience it would be interesting to know how that changed over time. Secondly, have you found any conversation tools to help change the focus from the word someone identifies with to the lived experience of each individual?


Do you feel it is your responsibility to educate people on your gender identity, or on the gender spectrum in general, due to your divergence from what's considered the norm? How much is up to the public to self educate and much is up to us to spread awareness about our own existence throughout history?


How can people buy your book?


Do you feel that since gender queer identities are more normal nowadays, that your experiences with folks in regards to "I'm queer" conversations are different from when you first came out? How so?


What do you, or could one, do to help present better as gender-queer?


———————

You're secluded in quarantine, and all the performances and events have been cancelled, so it's a good time to read a book!

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.


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

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

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BOOK REVIEW: XOXY by Kimberley Zeiselman

These are the ladies who lunch and strategize about intersex policy changes. Kimberley Zeiselman writes as a person who is aware of her generally privileged social location; she describes a life in which she's been at ease to move comfortably from Boston to Manhattan and back, and to journey with her husband to China and stay for a month in order to adopt children. I think sometimes the juxtaposition, of a life otherwise unencumbered with stress, against the specific experience of a marginalized identity, can make it easier to focus on the difference that having such an experience makes in a life.

Zeiselman is intersex. She is an example of CAIS, where the body's structure is completely impervious to the androgen hormones that, for most people with XY chromosomes, causes their body to develop with male morphology. She was regarded and raised as a girl, perceived as a female person with no questions raised by doctors, parents, or herself until the day when a persistent abdominal pain led to a poorly-explained operation. An operation where the particulars of what the surgeon was going to do were cloaked in euphemisms and lies.

Our culture has oscillated back and forth between an attitude that doctors know best so we should trust their judgment and a respect for patient self-determination and the importance of doctors explaining the options and letting the patient decide. In June of 1983, when Kimberley Zeiselman and her parents were asked to consent to abdominal surgery, the pendulum was strongly towards fully informed consent. But the fifteen-year old Kimberley and her family were told that she was at risk for cancer and that her ovaries needed to be removed for her health and safety.

But those weren't ovaries. Nor, as Zeiselman points out in a later chapter, was the risk of medical complications anywhere near as clear-cut as that. The surgeons removed Kimberley's undescended testicles, and put her on a lifetime regimen of hormone treatments. Why? Because it's what doctors thought they should do in cases like this. Eek, oh how embarrassing, got to get rid of those at once, hide this shameful fact so no one can find out. Cloak everything in lies and silence.

Kimberley Zeiselman learned the classic Yankee emotional inscrutability as part of her cultural inheritance. It was a world where internal turmoils aren't expected to be shared, just endured. The scene in the book where she discovers what had been done to her, and the fact of her difference, is stark and cold. The doctor writes her a prescription for anti-anxiety medication, then suggests "maybe it's time we dig out your old medical records so that you can better understand the surgery performed and put your fears of cancer to rest". Then the doctor leaves her alone in the room to read the account of how her testes were removed and found to be healthy and with no signs of malignancy.


We often learn shame by being protected from shame. When people whisper to us and wait until there's no one to overhear, the need for secrecy and the fear of exposure are taught to us. Zeiselman struggles with the shadow of inferiority and inadequacy. So much of her experience is expressed in the negative, in the things she doesn't participate in. In the years before the medical procedure, her best friends got their menarche but she was left behind wondering why she never got her period. After the operation, still not knowing anything about her intersex condition, she knows she will not be able to get pregnant and give birth.

Zeiselman's emotional habits carry over into her writing. She often skitters away from immersing the reader fully in what she was feeling at the time. She often summarizes events in places where, as reader, I wanted fully fleshed-out scenes, a more immersive experience. When her intersex condition is first revealed to her, Zeiselman gives us glimpses of the shock, and the intensity of her curiosity and being haunted about the impact of her stunning discovery. Tellingly, she wants the news to be shocking to the other people in her life, for them to react as if a bombshell had gone off in their midst, as if unless someone is willing to scream on her behalf there can be no screaming.


Kimberley Zeiselman becomes a policy activist, leveraging her connections in society to make a difference for intersex children. Sometimes the weariness of policy defeats and fighting the same battles recurrently make it sound like Sisyphus rolling his boulders. The medical policy on clitoris reductions for CAH intersex babies is the most formidable boulder. CAH — Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia — is a phenomenon affecting XX people in which the adrenal gland releases high levels of hormones that prompt the body to develop male attributes. The tissue that constitutes a clitoris tends to be larger, anywhere on a continuum from typical clitoris size to the size of a penis. And as Zeiselman added her voice to that of other intersex activists to outlaw nonconsensual surgery and leave the decision in the hands of the patients, she found the medical establishment insistent on their right to pare down or remove this tissue in the name of normalization.

Kimberley Zeiselman learned advocacy of behalf of others from raising her children, fighting for their right to a tailored and appropriate course of education. She took her skills and experience into the intersex rights fray, fighting her own fight, only to eventually end up largely immersed in a specific battle that centrally affects CAH intersex children. The identity called intersex is actually a constellation of several different situations, and enunciating the identity intersex is not only a rejection of the medical terminology that calls these conditions disorders, it's also a commitment to solidarity. Not all intersex people are identically situated but they can be unified politically as a marginalized community of people finally demanding a voice.

XOXY: A Memoir, Kimberly M. Zeiselman. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2020. Available from Amazon and other retailers; Facebook author's page



———————

You're secluded in quarantine, and all the performances and events have been cancelled, so it's a good time to read a book!

My book 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.


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

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

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I Want My Two Months Back

So I was asked to participate in a dialog involving gender-critical feminists and transgender activists.

There's a political group with chapters sprinkled all around the country. One chapter endorsed a statement from some women's group about womens' "Sex Based Rights". An LGBTQIA action group within that same political group said that by doing so, that chapter had done something transphobic and transmisogynistic and that they needed to retract their endorsement and apologize to all the transgender women who might have been offended by their endorsement, or else get kicked out of the political group.

And what were these "sex based rights"?


Content warning: Potentially inflammatory material from here on out. And serious, guaranteed-inflammatory content as you go farther down. Trigger warning issued. Trigger warning with flames and radioactive emblems. Proceed at your own risk:

Well, some of the supporters of that local chapter said this was about remedies that had been designed to address women's exclusion from various forms of political and social participation. A sort of affirmative action for women to offset the effects of patriarchy, of women's oppression. They said that including transgender women ran the risk of diluting that original intention, and that it made more sense to use language that guaranteed representation of transgender women AND transgender men but did so separately from the original remedies, which had been designed with cisgender women in mind, i.e., women who had been regarded and labeled and treated as female people for their entire lives. They also said some women's political groups wished to operate as cisgender-women only because they had always been separatist, not allowing men to participate, and the lifetime experience of transgender women was a mixture of factors making their situation different from that of the women who'd been in those groups all along.


"I can see where that's going to be a problematic position for trans people", I said. "Still, there may be a way to bridge some gaps here. They do have a point about experience and identity. As a genderqueer person who identifies as a male girl, I respect transgender people who don't want to include people like me, because they believe being trans is biologically built in, that if I'm a woman I'm female, and that the only healthy thing to do about being transgender is to transition. My situation is different from theirs. As long as they're not denying the validity of my gender issues I don't mind if they want to run groups that I'm not welcome in".

I checked in with the LGBTQIA Action Group, the LAGs. "Oh, yes", they said, "we sent those demands to the chapter that endorsed that horrible statement. We want them to take our concerns seriously. We'd love it if they'd have a dialog with us, but they refuse to respond!"

Then I went back to the local chapter supporters, the pro-discussion folks calling themselves Dialog. I told them "I got the impression the LAG folks are open to listening if the people in Dialog and the specific chapter that endorsed that statement will listen to them in turn".



Then I went off to read a copy of the original "Sex Based Rights" statement, the endorsement of which had kicked off all this. Winced a lot. Yeah, the statement has a lot of language that, if not blatantly transphobic, felt like it was chock-full of dog whistle terms and phrases. I decided I didn't like the phrase "sex-based rights" itself. In general, I think people don't have rights based on their sex. You may have remedies that have been made available to your sex on affirmative action grounds but a right is an intrinsic entitlement. Men aren't entitled to something intrinsically as a consequence of being men, or male, or both. Whatever they're entitled to is either because they're human, or human adults, or else it's situationally male or about being men because of something that they and only they experience. Are women? I could formulate some rights that all pregnant or potentially pregnant people should have, perhaps, or that all menstruating or potentially menstruating people should have, but if I did, those rights came from those situations. Whatever. I sure wouldn't have endorsed the statement I was reading. But it didn't seem so horrible that I'd demand that anyone who did be kicked out of the organization.




"I'm ready to discuss the matter with Dialog", the LAG activist said, "but I have no interest in wasting my time with TERFs who say I'm not a woman. If they want to talk with us and apologize for what they've done, hey I'm right here, but in this organization it is already an accepted principle that trans women are women. That means in any situation where we're talking about women, if they try to excluse trans women, that's a hate crime and they don't belong in our organization!"

I said, "Look, some of them seem to be trying to incorporate and accommodate an understanding of trans people. Many of them don't like the term 'cisgender' for themselves but they aren't all insisting that trans women aren't women. One person suggested the phrase 'natal women'. Do you acknowledge a reason why they might legitimately want to meet politically by themselves as 'natal women'?"

"Trans women are natal women", the LAG activist replied.

"Wait, not even all transgender people claim that being transgender means you were born that way. I know it's a popular viewpoint but you wouldn't kick someone out of a transgender group for saying they weren't born trans, would you?"

"You're wasting your time with those TERFs. If they want to apologize and retract their message of hate, I'm right here. But they won't because they're bigoted fascists".

"Listen", I said, exasperated. "you've clearly got the stronger political position. Inclusiveness is always going to look more justified than a reason to exclude someone. So I'm sure you can pressure them into saying the kinds of things you want to hear, or get the organization to boot them out if they won't. But this is also a public education opportunity. Do you want them to see the light, or do you just want them to feel the heat?"

The LAG activist shrugged. "It's a settled issue. If they're going to be doing hate crimes I want them kicked out, simple as that".




"Frankly", declared the Dialog member, "I don't care what their viewpoint is. Not while they're calling us 'TERFs'. That's a slur. It's used to discredit us. They call us that while they're beating us, there was a women's march in London, did you hear about that? These men, calling themselves transgender women, barged in and chased women down side streets, attacking them. And the police did nothing!"

"So you don't like being called 'TERF'. You don't like the word that they use for you", I said. "You see the irony in that, don't you?"

"Transgenders are trying to invade our women's spaces and take away our rights as women. They want to erase women's identities. They aren't women. They're men. They're male. The correct word for adult male people is 'men'. Not 'women'. They want to invade women's prisons with their penises and rape women. They want to hide in women's bathroom stalls and molest little girls. And we're not gonna put up with it!"



"Okay, Dialog folks", I said, addressing the group. "Even if you don't think the LAG people are genuinely open to listening to anything they don't already agree with, you need to care about public opinion. You need to care about how the rest of the organization is going to view you. And although the LAG folks sound inflexible, you are managing to sound even more so and it's not a good look".





I picked up my old battered copy of The Women's Room, the book cover that has "LADIES" crossed out and "WOMEN'S" inked in over it. "I understand why you value the word 'women'. I think it was either Robin Morgan or Gloria Steinem, relating the story of having a sit-down with the newspaper editor, and explaining why they didn't like the newspaper referring to adult female people as 'girls' since adult males were always designated as 'men'.

"And the editor said, 'So what would you prefer...ladies?'. And the feminist women practically held their noses and winced. That term, 'ladies', was polluted with notions of screening out those who aren't ladylike, all that 'act like a lady' crap, you know? They wanted the newspaper to use the term 'women', they told him.

"The word 'woman' was nearly entirely associated with the physical body. In our society, girls become women not by 'proving' you are one, the way boys 'become' men, but by going through biological puberty. Even the creepier social associations, like 'Has he made a woman out of you yet' — like being heterosexually active 'makes you a woman' — even those had mostly biological meanings, more than social attributes. So by choosing the word 'woman', it wouldn't look like feminists wanted to be the new arbiters of which adult females get to qualify.

"I get that. Why you liked the word. And I get that it's been in political use by feminists since then.

"But you aren't going to convince anybody, anywhere, that you're being anything other than bigoted and biased by saying transgender women are factually wrong about being women. I'd think feminist women more than anyone would understand that word use is politically loaded. Think back to how 'man' was supposed to mean 'any human being' but it excluded women, and how 'he' and 'him' were used to mean any person. The dictionary said that was correct. But feminists said word use changes when society changes. And the feminists made our language change. You also sound pretty silly saying biology is destiny, by the way."




LAG people: "But trans women were not born with male organs. If she is a woman those are her organs so they're female organs. And those Dialog...persons... they are TERFs. It means Trans Exclusive Radical Feminists. That's what they are. I don't see why they don't like being called what they actually are".

Dialog people: "No one is denying their right to exist. They have a right to dress and behave however they want. They can see themselves however they like and have any understanding of themselves they feel comfortable with, but they have no right to impose their ideas on others or claim rights that were originally based on addressing the historical denial of women's rights as a sex".

LAG people: "See, we told you. Hateful transphobes. Kick them out. I don't have time for this shit"

Dialog people: "Words have meanings. Male people are men. Men are male people. A person with a penis is male. These men calling themselves transgender women are mentally ill. Men are not women. Males are not women. A person with a penis is not a woman. See, we told you, hateful patriarchal misogynists. You can't make us agree with their bullshit".

LAG people: "See, they're bad. Bad people are bad. Which is bad. Which makes them bad. The things they are saying are defined as bad. Sure, we're open to a dialog. A dialog about how they are bad".

Dialog people: "Four legs good. Two legs bad. Four legs good. Two legs bad..."



I want my two months back. I'm particularly disgusted with some of the Dialog folks, who seemed determined to live up to the worst things said about them by the LAG contingent seeking to have them kicked out. But both sides had some participants who originally seemed to be trying to find language that the other side would accept, at least long enough to have a conversation. People who were making the attempt in good faith. And there were other people trying to speak to activists on both sides, I wasn't the only one doing this diplomacy act. But our louder and more insistent colleagues shouted us down on both sides.

They should all be glad I'm not God. Because you know what I'd do if I were? You know those cruise ships that are languishing out in the ocean because of coronavirus? I'd like to put everyone from both groups onto those ships, and I'd confine one Dialog member and one LAG member to each cabin and quarantine them there together. They deserve each other.

———————

You're secluded in quarantine yourself, come to think of it, and all the performances and events have been cancelled, so it's a good time to read a book!

My book has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.


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

———————

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

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Index of all Blog Posts

Diminishing Returns

My transgender woman friend is replying to a comment that she finds annoying. Somebody has said that they have nothing against transgender women, "but why do you embrace all of the most phony and stereotypical trappings of restrictive femininity? It's all pink lipstick and false eyelashes and nylons and pointy shoes with you. Don't you see how that comes across to us cis women? It's like you think that's what being a woman is all about!"

My friend finds the comment annoying because she feels like she keeps answering it over and over, it's a reoccurring theme and she's tired of it. She writes, "We don't like being misgendered. I happen to be tall for a woman, with more narrow hips and a more angular jaw. I grew up before puberty blockers. Many of us need to send as many signals as possible or we run the risk of being addressed as 'sir' or 'mister'. Why is that hard for you to understand?"

She uses socially recognized indicators of gender. Things that men don't do, things that men don't wear. That only works as long as men, in general, don't do those things, don't wear those items.

Meanwhile, we cheer when we hear stories of boys in preschool who aren't chased away from the fairy princess costumes. We celebrate the decline in rigid notions of what boys can do, what girls can do. We agree that the body with which one is born should not artificially limit one's choices, that people should have the maximum freedom to be and do any of the things that other people get to be and do in our society.

Many nonbinary and agender people say they would be glad to see gender disappear entirely: just treat people for who they are, don't categorize people as genders at all. But at the same time, many of them continue to be assigned to a gender by the people who encounter them. The assignment tends to be the same assignment they were given at birth--not because of actual genitalia, necessarily, but assorted visibly discernable physical characteristics that are the product of our sex hormones and the effects they have on our bodies. The same things that my transgender friend has to work against to avoid being misgendered. So it happens with nonbinary and agender people, too, they get misgendered and to try to keep that from happening, they, too, make use of garments and grooming styles to "look more masc" or "look more femme", to offset those traits.

I could identify as transgender or as nonbinary, but mostly I don't. I don't seek to be perceived as a female person, and I don't seek to be perceived as someone who is neither male nor female. I most often call myself genderqueer instead, and explain to people that I am a gender invert, a male girl (or male femme if you prefer), that I have a body and I have a personality, a sex and a gender, and what makes me genderqueer is that they are a mixed bag, an apparent mismatch.

Like the transgender and the nonbinary people, I, too, use some signals to convey visually a bit of who I am. I wear my hair long, I wear some jewelry that's not typical for males to wear, and I wear some apparel that isn't considered men's clothes (especially skirts). Since I present (nevertheless) as a male person (the facial hair being a pretty distinctive marker, and a prominent male larynx also makes that statement), it's a mixed signal, which is more or less as good as I can accomplish in the absense of a widespread social expectation that there are such people as male girls out there.

If there were a lot of other male people doing that, though, using items that socially symbolize femininity without attempting to be perceived as physically female, wouldn't it just dilute and eventually erase the perception of those items as feminine? Or is there a way to create the identity "male girl" and be recognized as a feminine male instead of being seen as a longhaired man in a skirt?

And is it a problem anyway? If the world had not insisted on a bunch of rigid notions about how girls and boys are supposed to be different from each other, would I have ever pushed away from the "boy" identity and decided I was more like one of the girls?

Maybe. Maybe not. I think the answer to that depends on whether males in general have different traits (other than the physical, I mean) from females in general. If there are such differences at the generalization level, I might still have come to see myself as an exception, even without the excessively rigid and proscriptive attitudes I grew up with.

People might want to hold on to artificial signals, signals that have historically said "feminine" or "masculine", not to gild the lily of their body's own physical manifestations but to signal where on the spectrum of masculinity to femininity they consider themselves to belong. There's no innate reason for most of these markers to convey the meaning that they currently convey, but that's true of the sounds that constitute our language and yet we continue to use language to communicate.

But if, on the other hand, there are no real non-physical-body differences between the sexes, it does seem like gender would disappear if there were no ideology propping it up. So notions of "masculinity" and "femininity" might fade away, along with any possible signals to convey them.


———————

You're secluded in quarantine, and all the performances and events have been cancelled, so it's a good time to read a book!

My book 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.


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

———————

This LiveJournal blog is echoed on DreamWidth, WordPress, and Blogger. 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/64162.html#comments

I'm in Newsday! (aka Mainstream Press Coverage); + More Reviews

I'm in Newsday! (aka Mainstream Press Coverage); + More Reviews

Newsday, Long Island's primary newspaper, Sunday circulation 495,000, is featuring an interview with me as the lead in Arts & Entertainment section of tomorrow's (Sunday May 3) issue. Author: Brian Alessandro, literary critic

Link goes to the online copy of the article, but it's behind a paywall which will put it out of reach for most people who aren't subscribers of Newsday or one of its partners.

It's not a review of the book. The questions were about my motivations as an author and the political situation of genderqueer people within LGBTQIA and how I feel about putting such personal information about the events in my life out there for public consumption -- most of which I've discussed at length in these blog posts.

Getting a spread in Newsday is excellent publicity and I hope it will direct a significant amount of local and regional attention to my book. Public awareness is very much a snowball phenomenon. When people think something is happening that other people in their community are paying attention to, they want to be at least somewhat acquainted with it and what it's about in case someone asks them.


Meanwhile, I'm continuing to get college newspaper reviews. The corona virus has of course delayed many such endeavors so they are being spread out over the course of months instead of being more closely packed together. That has the beneficial effect of lengthening the time when I'm popping up in print and affecting search engines and whatnot. That works in my favor, ameliorating the effect of being unable to make guest-speaker appearances and do book signings etc.

Here are the reviews that have come in since my April 3 post:




"First and foremost, what this book does really well is testify to the importance of the 'Q' in LGBTQ. When many people furrowed their eyebrows at the addition to another letter in the acronym, people like this author were fighting to show how necessary it was. Derek’s story takes place in a time way before the 'Q' was introduced, way before most began to understand or care about gender issues.



However, even though Genderqueer takes place in the 70s, there are many parallels to today’s world that will make the story resonate with today’s LGBTQ youth. Derek’s confusion and desperation to understand who he is is so palpable that anyone who has gone through anything similar, or is currently going through anything similar, will be able to relate. With this story, Alan D. Hunter sheds light on a gender identity that is relatively unknown to the general public while also giving others who share a similar story to him validation that there is nothing wrong with who they are."




Anna Vanseveran. St. Norbert Times — St. Norbert College


"The discussion around gender identity and sexual orientation has progressed exponentially in the past decade. Same-sex marriage became legal nationwide only five years ago, and the LGBTQ community continues to fight for equal rights. With this constant push for change, some can only imagine the struggles of coming to terms with your gender identity during the late 1960s and 1970s.



GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet offers an eye-opening view into the upbringing of a gender-nonconforming person in an era when many people didn’t know such an identity existed..."


Camryn DeLuca. The Diamondback — University of Maryland



"This is a novel that is bracingly raw and personal, yet always feels authentic in its sense of place and voice. Its visibility gives an insight into a point of view that doesn’t live in the “traditional” gender boxes...




It is in the last half of the book, when Derek starts to realize the whole person he is inside where the book reaches its peak...it is incredibly satisfying to see Derek hit his stride and finally find his sense of place and belonging in the world. "


Josh Rittberg The Snapper — Millersville University


"...it’s clear from the beginning of the novel where the story is heading. Hunter introduces their ideas of gender at the start of the novel when they talk about their personality as a child – how they don’t identify with the rough behavior usually prescribed to the male gender – and these thoughts stay with them and influence their growing up.



When the revelation is made, it’s not something that comes out of left field. Because of course it’s not – these things don’t just appear one day like a magic trick. It’s always there, even if it’s not super obvious at first."


Celia Brockert The Times-Delphic — Drake University


"...a treacherous and often realistic tale that’s packed with frustration, desperation and yearning. Hunter does an amazing job of captivating the raw emotions of a person seeking their own truths in a world where everyone else seems to know who they are and what their place is in the world...



We see Derek from a very young age get picked on and beat up. He tries time and time again not to let the bullies get into his head, but it proves more and more difficult. All the while he starts to believe the things they say about him. He seeks out answers in both healthy and unhealthy ways, often getting him in all sorts of trouble...



Overall this book is very eye-opening. It puts into words a story for people that are almost never represented. It shakes its metaphoric fist in the face of erasure, saying, 'I’m here and I will not be forgotten.'"


Zarqua Ansari The Beacon — Wilkes University



I've also gradually accumulated reviews on GoodReads, with eight readers leaving review comments behind.


———————

You're secluded in quarantine, and all the performances and events have been cancelled, so it's a good time to read a book!

My book 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.


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

———————

This LiveJournal blog is echoed on DreamWidth, WordPress, and Blogger. 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/63906.html#comments