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Nursery School via First Grade

This is me, a first grader, and I want to write about something very important.

First, pretend I'm you when you were a first grader, because the person who actually is me might not remember this, or I wouldn't need to write it down now and it's important.

---

I remember being four, so maybe there's no reason to think you won't remember being seven. Let's talk about being four. Nursery school. Sitting around a ring to hear the story being read. Little rows of kids, some in front, some behind them, up close. You're already worrying that this is going to get pedophilic. Yes I knew the word pedophilic when I was in first grade. I thought it was a totally creepy concept and of course I memorized how to spell it. No, this isn't that stuff. I didn't know the word when I was four but I felt the concern and got the general notion, minus the specifics, so back when I was already that much aware of the notion, this other thing happened, or was happening, around that time, and I wanted to write about that.

---

Bodies had dirty parts. No they didn't that's too simple. Parts that could have something to do with dirty. Diaper parts, potty parts. Don't put your hands in it, it's dirty. Don't talk about it, talking about it is dirty. That's too simple too but I bet you know what I'm talking about don't you.

Then something that people act as if it is kind of dirty but kind of not. There are parts that the girls have and parts that the boys have. It's described like if you are a girl you get these parts, like being a girl is first and then you get the parts. And boys. They have different parts. Boy parts. It makes you different. Well then it's having these parts, that's what makes you a girl, you weren't a girl and then got these parts. No. Well then having these parts doesn't make you different.

Liking the way they look. Pee from there, it's down there, it's dirty. Not to talk about not to think about but we think about it they call this dirty and it's liking the way they look. Oh I assumed. I didn't know some liked the way themselves looked. Oh I hadn't thought about. What if people with girl parts like me, the way I like theirs, and they're nice I like them anyway. But what if?

Yeah, little rows of kids, some in front some behind them, up close. Someone, somewhere, is playing with the waistpants band of the person in front of them, the latter someone being me. This unknown person wanted to slide a thumb under the edge of my underpants. I wasn't horrified, nor was I elated. I knew it was in that argued-about "dirty" territory. I could stop it. It felt like I was doing the unknown person a favor by not stopping it, and I liked that feeling and I was curious. Content warning update: that's as bad as it gets, we were four. As for the sensations themselves... nothing I saw any lure for. Although I found that I liked the idea that this person had been one of the tomboyish girls in our class and she'd done this to me.

We were defining our boundaries, and our sense of being in control of them, and we were experiencing ourselves as our own curators, granting or denying access, and we were doing that at four.

I'm not saying it wouldn't be an unfair situation if a five year old or a six year old started it, because they're bigger and more advanced, but you aren't protecting us by pretending all that stuff didn't come onto the scene until we were sprouting boobs and whiskers. Just because we're not sexless doesn't make it okay to do stuff to us like we're sex toys. Point is, we were *not* sexless. Or we were not sexuality-less and we were also not necessarily genderless (although some of us certainly might have been).

You're never going to understand it if you keep pretending it wasn't there all along.


—————


My first book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, is published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback, hardback, 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, has also now been published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It is available on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves. Hardback versions to follow, stay tuned for details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page, for both books.

———————

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

Walking the Tightrope

My latest book (which, yes, I do appear to be working on beyond "conjecturally") is different; or at least I'm trying to write it with a different feel, by going at it differently as an author.

One of the main themes I want to establish early on is the nonstop, unrelenting way that the institution went at their task of reprogramming us.

In books one and two (GenderQueer and Guy in Women's Studies), my writing style was to pick up at an event or occurrence that would be typical of things that might happen in a given day and which would be an example of an interaction with these characters in this setting, thus providing for character development (both of Derek the MC and the folks he's interacting with) and propelling the storyline forward. "This kind of thing tended to happen" gets written as "and then, shortly after that, this happened"; the reader intuitively realizes that between scenes is probably a lot of downtime when nothing in particular is taking place.

But in book three (working title: In the Box -- may become Within the Box or Inside the Box or some other variant), I am trying to give it a different feel, a sense that as author I am not dipping in for a scoop of sample event but rather going nonstop from my arrival at the place onward.

One simple tool I'm using is inserting the date for each consecutive day; I'm going to use those instead of named chapters, and except for the Prologue section the dates will be uninterrupted and consecutive, several pages' writing for each day in the bin.

But I'm also trying to shift from the conventional format of "writing the next scene", and instead trying to connect each scenario to how Derek gets into the next one, even if it means describing the squeak of the linoleum as I walk the corridor from where I was to where I'm going next.

It's definitely not a typical modality for me. I'll generally write a conversation and have a character make an important point and stop the scene right there as if nothing more happened or was said at that time, which is perhaps a rhythm I absorbed from television and movie drama.

I think I've been reluctant to actually begin work on this project for fear of discovering that I don't write this way effectively. That I'll end up with something that's boring or articificial-feeling. But so far (a mere 5600 words in) it's not so bad, I think I'm making it work.



I've gotten feedback on two of the segments from my author's workshop peeps. Without me having to prompt them, they said I was conveying a certain feeling which was exactly the hoped-for experience in that section, and in the other one elicited reactions to Derek's character and the situation he's in and his interactions with his parents and his nursing supervisor.

I'm walking a different kind of tightrope when it comes to character and sympathy. In many cases I want the other characters to seem believable and not like comic book villains, and to make them accessible and their behaviors relatable, while at the same time showing the main character's frustration and cut-off untenable situation with regards to those same behaviors.

Reciprocally, a big part of the rationality and courage of main character Derek is that he is in fact willing to consider the possibilities being pushed at him, that he is possibly in denial in some fashion, or that his behaviors are genuinely maladaptive or destructive, even though none of this seems true to him at the time. But ideally I want the reader to join Derek in concluding that "no, they're wrong about that, and Derek is right".

There's an unavoidable risk that some readers will get through the book experiencing it as the story of a messed-up mentally disturbed main character and the trajectory of his failure to accept the help he needed.

I have to make the case for Derek as hero with appropriate subtlety and nuance.

—————


My first book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, is published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback, hardback, 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, has also now been published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It is available on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves. Hardback versions to follow, stay tuned for details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page, for both books.

———————

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

Going on Offense

[warning: multiples forms of hostile & derogatory language]


There's a form of knuckle-dragging stubborn refusal to consider other folks' social situations that pretends to be common-sensical and harmless. And tries to portray anyone making a complaint about common widespread behaviors as rigid and rule-oriented, judgmental and humorless.

The problem with intolerance is not limited to the proud jerks who brag about how intolerant they are and who say deliberabely confrontational things to rile people up and make us angry.

But let's start with them anyway. One problem with folks like that nowadays is that such statements are so freaking outrageous that you feel stupid taking them seriously. Someone starts a discussion about how people like their coffee and one of these loud cheerful folks says "Just like my women: black, hot, chained to my bed, and whipped twice a day". Or "Strong and manly, don't pour me none of that faggy fairy flavored stuff, it was probably Evian water before it transitioned and I don't want none of that tranny stuff". They count on you feeling awkward about getting indignant in front of everyone present and saying "THAT WASN'T FUNNY, you asshole". They count on people accepting that it was to be taken as a joke. If confronted, he's going to spread his arms wide, shrug, and say "Yeesh, you don't think I'm being serious, lighten up willya?"

That's a problem if what is being "joked" about is just an extreme form of things said in all seriousness right there in the same social context.

I've been at a dinner table where some people who did beat their kids would say funny things like "I brung you into this world and if you don't watch it I can take you right the hell back out" or "Yeah of course I'm taking him with me when we go out swamp fishin' this Sattiddy... just the right size for trolling for alligators". See, it sets a tone where it sounds huffy and indignant and self-important if you later object to "I'm gonna raise a knot on your head if you interrupt me once more" or the obviously dead-serious affirmation that "A kid DOES need a good lickin' now and then. That's just good parenting. Nobody ever got anything but properly straightened out by a close familiarity with their Daddy's belt".


The bigger problem, though, is the weather people.

Do you know and understand about the weather people? Those are the ones who accept some forms of people-behavior as being Just How Things Are, just like the weather. Complaining about the weather never did make it change, now did it? What you do with the weather is, you adjust, you accept, and you COPE. Anyone who seriously snivels and whines about it is not being an ADULT.

But people are not storm clouds. Storm clouds are not going to listen to your complaints. It would be irrational to expect the storm cloud to ever change its behaviors in response to you. But people have a personal responsibility for their behaviors. So when a behavior is truly egregious and is something you should not have to tolerate, it does not MATTER that the behavior is long established and not likely to go away the first time you complain. It does not MATTER that people will defend such tradition-honored asshole behaviors and argue against you and get annoyed with you for attacking them. If you're pretty solidly sure of your ground and feel strongly enough about it, this is how it's done. They don't have to like it. But they have the capacity to change, and whether by patient explanation or angry call-downs or any other tactic of communication, it is appropriate to make those challenges to those ensconced behavioral patterns.

But here come the weather people, acting all reasonable, saying "OH well it's not that you're WRONG, but c'mon, they always do that, and you're making too big a fuss, and they do not MEAN ANYTHING BAD by it, the most outrageous ones are just being ridiculous and funny and the serious ones aren't saying anything that's all that horrid. I tell you what, let's just lighten up. You can have your opinion and it is OK that you said it out loud, but since no one was intending you any hurt you need to do something about that angry TONE of yours"

Weather people at beer bashes and parties twenty years ago were saying "Yeah so people shouldn't drive home all drunk and stuff, but they're going to do it anyway and you should not be bringing everyone down being all dead serious, and they're grownups and most of them aren't all that drunk so give it a rest, willya?"

And thus it becomes rare and difficult to actually SAY anything about our social issues. No one wants to be tagged as the wet blanket, the ponderously-serious social misfit who doesn't get how inappropriate it is to lecture folks and so on.

But hey, are all these same people going to sit down in a circle tomorrow afternoon and be part of an honest talking and listening space, and we should bring it up with them then instead?

No?

So if it's going to be said at all, it has to be said in the spaces where the offenses occur.


—————


My first book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, is published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback, hardback, 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, has also now been published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It is available on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves. Hardback versions to follow, stay tuned for details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page, for both books.

———————

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

The Words That We Use

I've been waiting for an idea to inspire me. What to blog about. Then I started reading the current book assignment for a book club I'm in. It happens to be Demystifying Disability by Emily Ladau, and it is not about gender identity, sexual orientation, sex vs gender, or LGBTQIA+ issues. It is about identity politics, though, and it starts off by doing something that annoys me, which makes the matter a good thing to blog about.

The fact that it isn't about gender or related matters makes it a good detached "exhibit A" for discussing the annoying stuff. Because it annoys me when I encounter it within our environment, and I definitely do, quite often.

I should state for the record that I'm only through the first chapter of Ladau's book and the remainder of it may be provocative and informative.



The annoying practice

Ladau kicks the book off with a tour of vocabulary and why you should use these words and phrases and why you should not use these other ones. The explanations are short and choppy and don't provide much analysis: "The way we talk shapes how we think, and the way we think shapes how we talk", she informs us. This term is outdated, hence bad, don't use it. This term is reductionistic, hence bad, don't use it. Sometimes the reasons are more personal: "It makes my skin craw", or "I don't like euphemisms".

She declares herself not to be one of those judgmental people who have no tolerance of someone who uses the wrong words: "It's totally normal to worry that you'll mess up on what to say...if you get it wrong, just apologize, move on, and try to do better in the future".

But when you spend the first 25 pages on nomenclature, and only provide superficial explanations for why saying things with these words and not those words is important, and to whom, it still looms in significance and emphasis.


The real reasons

Whenever an out group begins to stand up for itself as an identity, having a different vocabulary to describe the differences than what the mainstream majority uses helps to do these social tasks:

• It underlines group identity and polarization from those who are not us. We do this; they do that. It signals one's allegiance, much like the wearing of berets or khaki or jeans have sometimes done for people at various times. It's likewise similar to the wearing of one's hair a certain way. It reminds everyone which group we're in.

• The lack of explanation itself serves a purpose: it emphasizes embrace of the group over retaining individual nitpicky differences in perception. It puts a higher priority on group loyalty than on respect for individual dissent.


Why I dislike it

• First off, I do my own thinking and I can follow yours if you bother to share it. Don't treat me like I'm too stupid to consider the real thought process. And if you didn't engage in any real thought process and you're just handing down "because everyone in the group all says so" wisdom you absorbed when you joined up, you shouldn't be writing as if from a position of leadership on the topic.

• Visualize the mainstream folks for a moment. Think about the ones whose initial response is to be dismissive of ideas they aren't familiar with, but who are willing to listen. They're following along with the culture's ongoing dialogs at home. Well, when you come out with a bunch of "is" declarations that lay out what is right and what is wrong, and don't unpack any of your thinking, you haven't given the mainstreamers any reason to consider your viewpoint. In fact, you've given them ammunition to be contemptuous of us.

• Then there's litmus testing. Other people whose situations put them into the same camp with us may arrive at a sense of identity from having analyzed their own situation. That means they may not be camp followers who have absorbed the appropriate vocabulary lesson when they first show up and attempt to communicate. The mindless thoughtless and arbitrary "never say this, always say that" approach often causes people to label them as enemy, as wrong-thinking outsider, instead of listening and recognizing that they're us.


—————


My first book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, is published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback, hardback, 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, has also now been published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It is available on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves. Hardback versions to follow, stay tuned for details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page, for both books.

———————

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

Gender and Its Variants

On a general-purpose, socially-progressive message board, someone posted to ask about the wide array of gender identity terms now in use, citing the available gender choices for one's FaceBook profile:



The list includes these choices: Trans Male, Trans* Male, Trans Man, Trans* Man, Transgender Male, Transgender Man, Transsexual Male, and Transsexual Man. Do these terms describe different genders? Or do these terms all define the same gender and are personal preferences for what people wish to call their gender?



Pretty quickly, someone else replied:


Those aren’t distinct “genders”. They’re phrases representing various preferred ways for people to describe their gender identity.


I replied directly under that:


^^^ This.

Don’t think of the genders the way you think of the elements on the periodic table of the elements, or the nutritional components of the human diet. Think of genders as each being one or more person’s articulation of their gender identity as a response to our society, which presented them with a Problem. The Problem was (and still is) that society divides people into male and female and treats the male people as all, indistinguishably, having a box of characteristics in common — let’s call it the Boy Box, later to evolve (for all the males, in the same predetermined way) into the Man Box. The female people get the Girl Box / Woman Box. The reason it’s a Problem is

a) It’s a generalization, and then the exceptions are treated like we’re wrong, evil, sick, pathetic, and/or unsexy and heterosexually ineligible in particular;

b) It hits people on an intensely personal level and is very hurtful to the exceptions to the rule, which sucks, and it isn’t really a lot of fun even for the people who do (mostly) fit the original description; it’s very depersonalizing about something that’s intensely personal, and it’s limiting;

c) It isn’t just a generalization even to start with. There’s a large dose of “prescriptive” stuff that never fit anyone of any conceivable sex, so much as it represents what our social structure would like people to be like for manipulative and exploitative reasons. (I’m personalizing social structure as if it had “likes” but it’s a useful way of thinking of it anyhow).


That's my thumbnail sketch version of what gender (and gender variant people) is all about.

Not everyone here on the LGBTQIA+ rainbow would endorse that view, though. Most centrally, not everyone agrees that gender is social and that it's all about personality and behavior and all that. Some people think of gender as a built-in characteristic that exists independent of social beliefs and concepts.

For instance, in a different but similar context, a participant in a FaceBook LGBTQ group wrote:


Hey, gender is real. We're born with it. You should read what Julia Serano wrote in Whipping Girl, we're born with a wiring diagram in our brains that tells us what gender we are, and for some of us it's in conflict with what society considers us to be. If it were all social, we'd all just go along with what society says.


Well, I did read what Serano said, thank you very much, it's right here on my bookshelf. First off, she says we should not think of this as gender. She's talking about a wiring diagram that sometimes says the body we are born with isn't the one we were designed to inhabit:


It seems as if, on some level, my brain expects my body to be female...brain sex may override both socialization and genital sex...I have experienced it as being rather exclusively about my phyisical sex...for me this subconscious desire to be female has existed independently of the social phenomena commonly associated with the word "gender".


Other people, however, are more emphatic that they realy do mean gender when they talk about something hardwired into their brains. They will describe a range of things that I consider to be socially attached to a given sex -- like whether you wish to adorn yourself with cosmetics and dress yourself in a skirt, or whether you'd rather play pool and drink beer all evening than sip cosmopolitans and giggle about the latest episode of Sex and the City -- as being caused by some kind of coding in the brain, perhaps genetic, perhaps induced by prenatal hormones.

I don't know about that. I see a problem with that notion.

One of my LiveJournal friends recently wrote on the topic:


Isn't it OK to categorize myself in order to present a somewhat-accurate description of who I am? Like identifying as an introvert or an extrovert? But we don't call "introvert" a type of "gender" or "race". Introversion is a personality characteristic -- would you rather have a lot of friends or a few close friends, do you derive energy from social interactions or do they wear you out?


Let me riff on that notion. Let's suppose that after a sufficient number of years of successful gender activism we reach the point that none of these characteristics are associated any more with whether you have a penis, a vagina, or some other biological merchandise. Well, at that point the gender identities are free-floating; each of them represents a certain way of "being in the world", a batch of personality traits and behavioral tendencies, but now that they are no longer in any way anchored in any particular physical body structure, they aren't appreciably different from notions such as being an introvert or being an extrovert.

There would no longer exist such a thing as a cisgender person. Nobody would assign you any identity at birth based on what you pee from. And with no cisgender people, there would also be no transgender people either, or genderqueer, nonbinary, or any other identity category of that nature.


—————


My first book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, is published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback, hardback, 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, has also now been published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It is available on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves. Hardback versions to follow, stay tuned for details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page, for both books.

———————

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

Author Thoughts / Possible 3rd Book

I have notes for a third book. I haven't been working on it. Or even them, the notes.

I admit I'm thinking about it.

Writing books is somewhat addictive on its own. I like the books I've cranked out so far, and to have a notion for a new one? Yeah, there's a certain lure to it.

The flip side, to be blunt, is that neither of the first two books obtained many readers.

That's been really disapointing. The first book (GenderQueer), in particular, was written with the sense that I was speaking for an entire identity, and I wrote it to achieve recognition for us. I mean, yes, there was some portion of my motivation that had more to do with wanting my own personal story to be told, or with my sense that my story was entertaining and should engross readers. But let's say 90% of my motivation in writing it was that I hadn't had any such book available to me as a resource when I was 14 or 17 or 21, and nobody should have to work all this mess out for themselves and feel all alone with it.

The second book (That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class) also had a socially relevant message or two, although to a larger extent than with the first book, I wrote it for personal reasons, to explain what I'd attempted and how it had gone down. And to have a platform from which to argue about specific types of feminist theory. Let's say 70% of my motivation was feeling that this content needed to be put into writing and the rest was about just telling my story and feeling like it was a a good tale to tell.

So because they both had prominent "mission statement" elements, it's been very discouraging that I didn't get more readers than I did. I don't mean I expected to get listed as a bestseller, but I admit I was hoping for maybe 15,000 copies sold, or 23,000, or 10,000. What I got was more like 100.

---

The third book is more of a thriller story. Chronologically it takes place between book 1 and book 2. I had come out as a heterosexual femme sissy male, but had not as of yet chosen to major in women's studies. My parents were worried about me.

I was convinced by my family to give psychiatric treatment a second chance. "That place you went to before was a snake pit... locked up with bars in the windows and locks on the doors and wearing hospital gowns. This place is all modern, and focused on helping clients communicate. They look at your diet, your personal hangups, your relationship with drugs [yes I know you don't think you have a drug problem, but you know your Dad and I do], your plans...please try it? If you decide it isn't for you, they promise you can just leave. You know we're all so sorry about what you went through, that wasn't right".

At that time in my life I was extremely frustrated in my attempts to become a gender activist and speak out about my situation as a social phenomenon. The word "genderqueer" didn't exist yet but I'd essentially formulated the notion and was trying to draw attention to it.

---

I want to try doing book 3 as a thriller. To make each day a chapter and give a sense of nonstop passage of time between the time I checked myself in and the time it all came to an end.


I still am not committed to doing it. Probably nobody's going to read it. It won't be as socially relevant as either of the previous two. The writing challenge will be harder for me.


—————


My first book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, is published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback, hardback, 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, has also now been published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It is available on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves. Hardback versions to follow, stay tuned for details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page, for both books.

———————

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

On Being a Non-Transitioner

It is important to be aware of one's privileges and to try to maintain some awareness of what life is like for people who don't have them.

Sometimes our social situations can seem paradoxical or complicated, where one type of identity can look privileged when compared to another in one aspect, but then it looks to be the other way around when you look at a different aspect. That's not a good reason to avoid trying to expand our awareness, though.




I am not a cisgender person; my gender identity is something other than what people tend to assume it to be. To use the conventional language, it's a different value than what my mom's obstetrician scribbled down on my birth certificate, where I was assigned male at birth.

Almost nobody I interact with has seen my birth certificate, of course. They are reacting to visual cues and interpreting those as indications of a specific physical morphology, the same physical morphology that led the doctor to write "male" on my birth certificate. There are ways to modify one's visual presentation and provide different cues so that people are less likely to assign the same value that got put down on one's birth certificate -- and many transgender people make use of these techniques, to present as their real gender.

In a world that still very much regards sex and gender as the same thing, the way one presents as one's true gender is to present as the sex that causes people to assume you are that gender.

I don't do that. I identify as genderqueer, not as transgender; what I want of the world is to be regarded and accepted as sharing a gender with the girls and women, but specifically as a male person, not as a female person. This is a different attitude and a different expectation than wanting to be regarded and accepted as a woman, period, full stop. Not all transgender women are transitioners, people who transition from male to female, people who present to the world so as to be regarded and classified and treated as indistinguishable from any other women. But that's the most widely shared understanding in our society of what it means to be transgender.



There's a lot of stuff I don't have to endure that transitioning people have to deal with, and I am aware that being insulated from this constitutes a privilege for me.

a) BATHROOMS -- As an adult I hardly ever face any harassment or discomfort related to people thinking I'm in the wrong bathroom. I'm not targeted by the hostile anti-trans laws and policies that have been enacted in certain places. My presence is hardly ever perceived by anyone else in a bathroom as a potential threat or as a deviant behavior.

I'm not completely unable to relate to the situation I've heard others describe, though. I had a lot more trouble with being in the boys' bathroom as a child, as an elementary school student. Young boys can be intrusive and uninclined to respect any semblance of boundaries, the communal bathrooms were a space of relative insulation from adult behavioral monitoring, and children can be particularly intolerant of differences and inclined to label and target those they regard as weird. Or queer, you could say.

I didn't like being in there with them. They made it plain that they thought there was something wrong with me, that I wasn't normal for a boy, and I didn't feel safe there. They were also very crude, scatological, obscenely nasty in their talk about bathroom functions and body parts. They were occasionally violent or physically intrusive.

But I really don't experience any of that as an adult.


b) MEDICAL -- Not all transitioning people participate in a medical transition, one that involves hormones or surgery or hormone blockers or other physical interventions. But those that do have to contend with the vagaries of insurance coverage and the possibility of doctors acting as medical gatekeepers and creating hoops to jump through, qualifying criteria that one must meet.

Medical transitioning can also be extremely expensive, requires recovery and recuperation time, and as with all medical procedures has risk factors, the possibility of complications or unwanted side effects and so on.

My gender identity has never exposed me to any of that. It's not something I've ever had to cope with.


c) HOMOPHOBIC CIS HETERO DATING-SCENARIO HOSTILITY -- Awkwardly titled, but what I mean is the reaction of cisgender hetero people to the existence of people of the sex they're attracted to who happen to be transgender people who have transitioned, and their equation of them (and to the possibility of sexualized behavior that would involve them) to homosexuality.

This is primarily an issue for transgender women targeted for homophobic hostility by cis het men. Such men often consider female people to have engaged in a sexually provocative behavior merely by being female and daring to have4 an appearance. Instead of attributing responsibility for their attraction to their own sexuality, they will often attribute it to the women to whom they are attracted. So in a similar, parallel fashion they regard transgender women as either enticing them or attempting to do so. Add in their homophobic concern about possibly having a sexual interest in someone who was born with a physical morphology that was designated male and it takes the form of accusing transgender women of doing a perverted and invasive form of sexual aggression just for existing and presenting as female in public.

Since I don't present to the world as female, you'd think I'd be completely immune to this. I actually haven't been -- my behaviors have often been treated and regarded as the equivalent of presenting as female, with the same attribution of attempted enticement, and I've had the furious anger expressed to me, and on some occasions violence as well.

But I don't tend to experience much of it as an adult interacting with strangers and casual acquaintances. When it has occurred, it has mostly been a reaction from people who have had opportunity to perceive me over time and form an opinion or belief about me. And, as with the bathroom hostility, it was far more of an issue when I was younger, although more from the older end of primary school years, puberty and adolescence rather than elementary school.


d) MISGENDERING / WRONG PRONOUNS, ETC -- I'm constantly misgendered and I'm so used to it I can scarcely imagine a life in which people correctly gendered me. I'm not, however, constantly seeking to be altercast by other people as an identity that that they already know and recognize (and altercast other people into on a regular basis), and I think that's relevant. There's an investment in the possibility of acceptance that creates a vulnerability.

I'm not sure my situation is safer from microaggressions or less fraught with daily emotional wear and tear, but at a minimum it is different.

We've all been in an occasional social situation where any kind of acceptance as "one of us" was completely out of the question, and we've all had at least a few occasions where it was not beyond the bounds of hope that people would. Rejection and hostility and mockery tend to hurt more sharply in the latter situation.


The main reciprocal side of all this is that transgender people who are transitioners occupy an identity that, at this point in our culture, is known and recognized. Some of the people who know or recognize it are hostile to it and don't regard it as authentic or legitimate, but they've been exposed to the concept.

I don't have that. There is still almost zero social awareness of people who seek to be recognized as having a gender that doesn't match their sex, and to have that hybrid mismatched combination authenticated. This means that the loud social voices that promote understanding and acceptance do not include people like me. It means that allies and thoughtful conscientious people remain unaware of our experiences and have no idea how to accommodate our feelings. It means that structured organizations to promote the equality and social well-being of gender-atypical people are not "us" to people like me -- they are, at best, potential allies, hypothetical groups to which we would logically belong if we could make them aware of us and get them to move over and make room.

I do often feel more marginalized (rather than more oppressed) than conventional transitioning trangender people. But I have societal advantages, too.

I pledge to be the best ally to my transgender brothers and sisters that I can be.


—————


My first book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, is published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback, hardback, 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, has also now been published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It is available on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves. Hardback versions to follow, stay tuned for details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page, for both books.

———————

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
Most of the books on my LGBTQIA+ shelf are either memoirs, where someone is telling from their personal experience what it's like to be a transgender man or a butch lesbian or intersex person or whatever, or they're explanatory books that set out to shed light on the situation of gay or trans or genderqueer people but don't do so by telling a narrative story. Then there are a few fiction books that sort of do the same thing as the memoirs, where the story about a nonbinary child or a pair of gay men in the 20s serves to illuminate what those social experiences are like.

When I began reading Black & Bold by Kevin Mosley, I started out thinking of it as one of those explanatory books, laying out the issues specific to black gay men in our society, and it does indeed do a good deal of that, but I came to realize as I read onward that it's actually more of a self-help book.

This is Kelvin, who having come to terms with his own identity, is reaching a hand back in love and support, saying, "You can, too!" A warmth and supportive reassuring presence is palpable throughout. There are guided meditation-like contemplative thought exercises and affirmations at the end of each chapter.

The most central pastoral care message that comes through is about rejecting self-hate. Mosley talks about the social hostility and negative messaging and how important it is to scrutinize these and set them aside and to feel good about yourself as a valid person -- a message that has applicability to everyone but of specific relevance to folks growing up black male and gay.

Reciprocally, there is a solid message about the emotional positives of being out, both for internal self-acceptance and for external social possibilities.

There is some thoughtful elaboration on the specific ways that being gay or growing up gay is different for black people, although not as much as I was expecting. Mosley is writing for a primary audience of black gay guys and hints and indirectly references a lot of this, though, and much of that may be self-evident for those in that position. That is partially a part of the tradeoff of writing a supportive therapeutic guide rather than a sociopolitical theory book -- the voice is clear and the material is well-organized and entirely absent of jargon, but it relies on more shared assumptions that remain unstated or only peripherally examined than a theory or a manifesto piece might develop.

That's not to say that these issues are unexplored altogether. The author makes the important point that, when compared to the predominant culture, the black community is more respectful of and affected by religion, making religious views of sexual behavior and sexual orientation a stronger force. Mosley spends a lot of time unpacking Christian-positioned judgmental responses to being gay, and does it without an antagonistically anti-religious framework, reaching to an audience that will contain many people who continue to consider themselves Christian, as well as people who don't but have been deeply affected by the embrace of those perspectives within their community.

Another theme often addressed and evoked even without a lot of academic analysis is intersectionality (although he doesn't use the word) --


A person who identifies with the struggles of living their life openly gay might still consider themselves superior to people with different abilities or skin color. Their experiences and identities do not automatically erase their potentially preprogrammed racist tendencies. This is why we often bear witness to gay white men executing racial crimes against a gay black man.


Mosley mentions how being a member of multiple deprecated outgroups increases the likelihood of being viewed negatively -- by police profiling, for instance -- and, on the other hand, how not also belonging to yet other such groups can ameliorate the judgmental attitudes that some people in the community are inclined to bring --


For the white man, he has his skin as his first line of defense. Before he is gay, he is white, and because we live in a twisted world that still indulges in the practice of racism, they are more likely to get fairer treatment from self-acclaimed moral police and preservers of outdated customs.


Mosley puts very little focus on ranting about what needs changing in the world, though, and mostly aims to hold a kind mirror to the individual reader, so as to help them make the internal changes from which they will benefit. He urges us to question the kind of stereotypes that polarize the world. He relates the story of Andrew, a young man worrying that anyone who figured him for being gay would be hostile, perhaps violent... he is conversing with a guy he has a crush on and two older black men approach and he's anticipating an attack, only to have it turn out that they're a couple -- his crush's two gay dads!


This is not to say that we are not discriminated against or that every crime against our race and sexual identity is imagined. If you look behind the veil, self-hatred and the inability to accept yourself for who you are is the first form of discrimination you experience.



Mosley is a mixed bag on inclusivity. Clearly he is writing about, and for, black gay men, but in discussing the processes of inquiry and self-examination, the acts that might lead to coming out as gay, he attempts to incorporate some other possibilities for the reader's consideration. He stirs in bisexuality and pansexuality the best, mentioning in several places that gay versus hetero is not an either-or consideration, that there is fluidity and complexity in attraction and expression and behavior.

Other LGBTQIA possibilities that might lead someone to ponder the possibility that they're gay are nowhere near as well addressed, though. He makes repeated mention of being part of the "LGBTQ+ rainbow" and attempts to separate gender conformity from sexual orientation in a "myths" section titled "Allowing boys to play with dolls will make them gay", but doesn't ever really unpack the possibility of how gender variance or gender nonconformity can be present as something utterly different from being gay.

He makes a better attempt to dismantle the inverse situation, of being gay without necessarily exhibiting gender nonconforming traits, in a different myths section titled "Gay people live flamboyantly" --


It doesn't suddenly turn us into label-loving fashionistas who want to wear feminine lingerie and put on tons of makeup... as a matter of fact, one of my closest gay friends plays football, drinks Guinness through a rusty funnel, and doesn't hesitate to knock a few teeth from the mouth of a homophobic if the moment calls for it.


-- but in many more places throughout the book he re-conflates the notion of being a femme or expressing as such with being a gay male, without holding it up for examination. As anyone who reads me regularly is probably well aware, treating gender and sexual orientation and physical morphological sex as being the same thing is a hot button for me and does get me up on my soapbox.

Before I climb up on it, let me make the disclaimer that Mosley isn't doing it any worse than many a transgender author has done in their narrative story, or worse than I see in many memes posted to LGBTQ spaces.

But on a chapter exercise on page 17, asking the reader "What is your primary sexual orientation?", he lists transgender, queer, and intersex as choices. Transgender and genderqueer are not sexual orientations, they're gender. Intersex is not a sexual orientation either, it's morphological sex.

And while it's nice that we're told that at least one gay fellow is a football hooligan who beats up homophobes, the book is rife with unexamined comments that imply that there's something gay about being feminine if you're male, and when you do that within a book designed to reach out to uncertain self-questioning people exploring their identity factors, that reiterates our culture's mainstream message that gender is an aspect of sex and of sexual orientation.


After years of attempting to blend in, I threw in the proverbial towel and dared to be myself... I slide into my rainbow dress, strut the streets , and stomp this battleground with my 6-inch thigh-high boots.


That's positioned as the author coming out gay. Not as the author coming out femme.


The alpha male and his supposed superiority over his counterparts are an urban legend that has fed the ego of brutish and selfish men who think little of everyone else. These guys perch on the fragile branches of delusional misconceptions...peering down on anyone who acts or talks in a way that is not considered fitting for men in their ranks. But laughably, despite all their show of brute force, it appears that the antidote for toxic masculinity is gay.


That's in a section that comes so close to indicting sissyphobia, misogyny, and homophobia as interrelated but separate processes, and yet for a lack of closer examination doesn't quite do so. Is the antidote for toxic masculinity gay even when the gay person in question is the football fan with the rusty beer funnel? How about the sissy femme male whose attraction is towards female folk, is he not an antidote? When stated as it's stated in the paragraph above, it's conflating being gay with being femme.

When Mosley discusses his own coming out, he says many people said he wasn't telling them anything they didn't already know.


This meant this huge secret I thought I had successfully kept from the world was not so much a secret as much as it was me living in denial...Meanwhile my "shame" was hanging out to dry for anyone to see. I wonder if it was because I dressed as Amy Winehouse for that Halloween party at Chad's?


Why would dressing as Amy Winehouse signal that someone is gay? Well, because we live in a culture that conflates femininity in males with being gay, but when you just toss this out without pinning it to the wall and untying those threads, even in a throwaway line, it adds one more underline to the notion that dressing as a female person would dress means you're attracted to the same sex.

Well... we do live in a world where we grow up hearing those equivocations. And if you happen to be attracted to the same sex as a male and you also happen to have some femme (or for that matter a lot of femme) in your disposition, it's natural, I suppose, to think of them as the same phenomenon. Hateful people react to your femininity and say you must be gay, and despise you for it, and when lo and behold it turns out you are indeed gay, you reject their judgment but have less reason to question the notion that they recognized you as being gay because you were so femme.



Black & Bold -- A Guide to Self-Love: Conquer Sexual & Racial Inequality, Proudly Identify as Black & Gay by Kelvin Mosley, publication forthcoming, © 2021

Kelvin Mosley is a member of the LGBTQ Writers Facebook group I'm in.

—————


My first book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, is published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback, hardback, 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, has also now been published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It is available on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves. Hardback versions to follow, stay tuned for details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page, for both books.

———————

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

It's All About the Sexuality

In the matter of being a gender nonconforming person, I've heard it said that we need to rally to make it okay for boys (or males) to cry and be soft and wear pink, to wear earrings and skirts and dance ballet.

But mostly that's never been an issue for me. I could already cry: who was going to stop me? I bought my first skirt at a thrift store; there may have been many people who didn't think male people should wear skirts but short of them tackling me and beating me up and taking it off my body, it's not like there was a lot they could do about it. I don't mean to belittle the real occurrences of violence towards gender transgressors. I've been assaulted a few times during my life. But in general, broadly speaking, I don't need other folks' cooperation in order for me to do things that are considered feminine. Instead, the disapproving factions would need my cooperation in order to have things their way.

The place where I found myself vulnerable to the impressions and opinions of others was sexuality. Sexuality is a need, a hunger for a participation. To have access to another person's body, to be found attractive and to be wanted, to play and fondle and nibble and hug... all this requires the active cooperation of others.

As I left childhood behind and came into adolescence, I suddenly needed for there to be a pattern change in the world. Among the delightful sea of attractive and interesting female people, I needed there to be some who would find a sissy femme male person like me to be attractive and interesting in return.

The conventionally masculine boys tended to have that. Some individuals more than others, of course, but in general they could look around and see attractive girls who seemed to be attracted to boys who were similar to themselves, and this would encourage them to think this would happen for them personally.

Me, I looked around and was faced with the sense that what I wanted, what I hoped for, just wasn't done. Wasn't how it was.

And that is how it came to be that I started to think I shared a situation with gay and lesbian people. My gender being different meant my sexuality was different. I was still male and still hetero but none of the observable patterns of heterosexuality matched up with me being a sissy femme kind of male.

Like gay and lesbian people learning that they probably won't find what they crave until they look beyond the conventional looking-places and outside of the conventional flirting behavior patterns, I came to realize I was different, I was queer, and I had to approach this all differently from what I saw other people doing.


You hear people saying over and over that sexual orientation and gender identity are two entirely different things. Yes and no. What people usually mean by that is that being femme, as a male, is not the same thing as being gay. Or that being a transgender woman if you were designated male when you were born is not the same thing as being a gay male. And mirror-image for the lesbians and gender-atypical female people. That being butch isn't identical to being a lesbian, and neither is being a transgender man. All that is true.

But where having an atypical gender identity for a person of my sex has made all the difference has been in the world of courting and kissing and flirting, the world of trying to meet possible partners.

Because all I need in order to wear my hair long and put in earrings and so on is that you refrain from physical attacks on me, and most people, even the disapproving sort, aren't predisposed to do that. But the coupling-up stuff intrinsically requires a lot more from people. It won't work if I'm not understood. It won't work if I'm not seen and recognized. It won't work if my identity is invisible to people and they've never imagined any such person.

And understanding is a much larger ask than "just leave me alone", if you see what I mean.



—————


My first book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, is published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback, hardback, 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, has also now been published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It is available on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, hardback versions to follow, stay tuned for details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page, for both books.

———————

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

Patriarchy

The assault on abortion rights was never about abortion per se, it's been all about returning us to patriarchy, pre-feminism. And all the Otherisms like racism that are part and parcel of it.

Whenever feminists made that claim, many folks said "You're pontificating. You're making it into a bigger thing than it really is. Seriously, the world is not all about women's oppression. I don't mean it doesn't matter or isn't important but it's just a part of the picture".

But the radical feminists said "This is the big picture. The entire history of social politics is whether there is sexual equality or there is not. All the other stuff is a subset of it. Patriarchy means old men got young men by the balls by first controlling women, hence sex, as a commodity. Patriarchy means controlling reproduction too, anchoring it to individual means of supporting the children. Patriarchy is a departure from tribal / communal responsibility for the children in a general sense. It isn't done just to divest general responsibility for children, though; it is done because it diverts so much individual young people's energy into channels so that their lives are obsessed with finding a relevant mating opportunity once those channels have been significantly narrowed and all sexuality officially pinned to one model. It also makes women and men adversaries, necessarily fearful of each other's motivations. However much she loves and cares for you, her social situation means she has to find a socially and financially stable partner because children. Perhaps he finds you fascinating and attractive but he is not wanting to be roped into supporting children just in order to get close to you.

Birth control and abortion meant it didn't have to be that way. They shifted the social possibilities. Or, if you prefer, the shift in social possibilities made room for making birth control and abortion services available.



I'd like to point out that pre-patriarchy there was tribal responsibility for the children. And there was no complex property to hand down. Pre-patriarchy was largely pre-agriculture.

What we know is that we, as a species, can exist multiple ways, can configure ourselves multiple ways. We adjust. It's not all hard-wiring. There are some hard-wired things but they can be rendered in a lot of different ways.

Patriarchy is one way. Feminism and associated social movements for equality were in the process of giving us a different world. Some folks don't like this historic shift at all and they're doing their last-stand best to return us to the previous world. The current chapter in American politics should be titled "Episode V: The Patriarchy Strikes Back". The long-term odds are against them but they're scaring me to the core to be honest about it.



The Kalahari desert San people, one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies, obtain everything they need with an average of 7 hours work per week from each person. And they're doing this in one of the areas of the planet that nobody wanted because it's a freaking desert.

Humans didn't switch from simply wandering around plucking what was growing (and hunting down an occasional critter) to staying put and tending stuff in the ground, keeping animals penned up and having to feed them, and defending all that from the other humans who were still wandering around -- until the alternative was starvation.

Agrarian civilization is a stupendous amount of work, it's a precarious existence with a lot that can go wrong.

All evidence shows it first took off in small fertile areas surrounded by deserts. Dense populations with too many people to obtain their food from the desert. Dense populations that depleted the resources in the fertile area where they originated.

The focus of patriarchy, as pointed out by Marilyn French, is control, obedience, personal sacrifice for the greater good, authoritarianism, fear of other groups. If you think of an entire society with the mindset that individuals have when they are in danger and feel threatened, that's the shared mindset of patriarchal society. It's us in scarcity mode. It's contagious (it entrenches and expands and drives out hunter-gatherer groups). And other than survival there's nothing good about it. It's also rigid and extremely tradition-bound and resistant to change, hence it lingers long after there us sufficient abundance to not need it. It isn't EEEEVIL incarnate or anything, as if there's a Devil and this is his agenda, but patriarchy isn't particularly praiseworthy and it sure as hell isn't pleasant.

And not only do we no longer need it, it's toxic for us in our modern circumstances. Our survival now depends on flexibility, cooperation, and coexistence, not rigidity and intractable adversarial competition.


----

Preemptive reply to any mention of "mansplaining patriarchy": This is no time for silence, I neither present this as all my own independent thinking nor attribute it all to others, I'm not into the whole "man" thing, and I won't shut up.


—————


My first book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, is published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback, hardback, 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, has also now been published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It is available on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, hardback versions to follow, stay tuned for details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page, for GenderQueer now and for Guy in Women's Studies once they come out.

———————

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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  • ahunter3
    6 Sep 2022, 13:30
    If it gives you any hope for future generations, Gen Z uses TikTok to call out people who road rage, say offensive shit, harass service employees, etc.
    The way they usually do this is to get footage…
  • ahunter3
    5 Sep 2022, 20:21
    I'm curious about what prompted this!

    Your second book currently has me pondering the legitimacy of force — after reading about your protest outside the psychiatrists convention, with the butterfly…
  • ahunter3
    7 Jul 2022, 13:02
    You remind me of how we almost passed the Equal Rights Amendment when I was a kid — I was a vocal supporter, marching in favor of it at my Catholic school in 2nd or 3rd grade. But then by 6th or 7th…
  • ahunter3
    24 Jun 2022, 08:56
    Great examples!

    It's difficult for me to get excited about cultural appropriation, mainly because it often feels like a "victimless crime". Who is getting hurt by it? Not simply offended — like…
  • ahunter3
    12 May 2022, 18:22
    Kindle version of *That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class* has now popped up on Amazon and the other likely suspects.
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