The Whole "Being Sexy" Thing...

I occasionally hear some cisgender woman express her dismay about AMAB girls and women fervently embracing the status of being an object of desire. She might say, "Maybe it's because you haven't been exposed to it all your life like we have, but you sometimes act like none of you never heard of women's liberation and the importance of not just being treated as a sex object". Or with more exasperation, perhaps, as "Yeah, trans women are women, but I'm so tired of seeing the intro posts with the posed photos... it's like they're saying that's what a woman's existence boils down to -- being somebody's fucktoy".

Male and female people, cis and otherwise, can make lists of things that are less available to them in social life because of gender. For the folks perceived as male, these may include things like the opportunity to nurture relationships and the ability to be with children without being viewed as likely child molesters; and for the folks perceived as female, things such as being regarded as likely leaders, being taken seriously and followed when they speak with authority. The sense of being excluded from these things unfairly is considered legitimate, and to rejoice in having gained access to them anyway, whether by transitioning or by other means, can be high-fived as a well-deserved trumphant celebration.

But when people who were not originally designated as female celebrate being perceived as sexy? That often gets seen as trivial fluff.

In discussions with cis women who spend a lot of their time analyzing what the rigidity of sex roles deprives people of, I encounter some of that. "Oh, seriously, that's something you think you'd enjoy? Honestly, it's very tiresome and annoying, and most women wish it would just go away".

It's one of the most interesting "grass looks greener on the other side of the fence" perceptions. Talk to a bunch of cis hetero males and they'll often emphasize the power that comes from being the wanted component in a partnership. "Whether you've got a company that everyone wants to work for, or you're a really skilled expert that all the companies want to hire, if you're the one that everyone else wants, you get to call the shots, you know? Or let's say you're a famous movie producer, and all the actors want to be cast in your movies. But you also get that if you're the actor that everyone wants to get to play starring roles in their movie, right? So how can women not be experiencing that as power? I think it would be wonderful".

The envied women say it feels like always being a gazelle or an impala on the veldt with tigers constantly trying to take you down and prey on you. The never-ending harassment, the pushiness of the sexual pickup attempts, the constant reminder of the possibility of sexual coercion, none of that makes them feel like they're the ones in control of the situation. "And when you add in the way you're so often just seen as sex on feet, that you get reduced to this and the rest of who you are and what you're doing doesn't count, hell no, we don't feel like we have the power, not the way you make it sound".

So when it comes to transgender women (or other feminine-spectrum identifying folks originally designated male), when we indicate that we want more of that kind of experience in our lives, or we post our "hey check me out, how do I look?" selfies as part of our introductory posts on Facebook, we are sometimes made to feel like we're airheads. TransBarbies whose most important social-political concern is the chance to be whistled at.



I sometimes feel like responding, "Look, you can't have it both ways. Entire theories of women's oppression have been formulated that revolve around the notion that males fear their own craving for the female body and for that reason set out to control women. Well, if sex objectification is a central issue for female people's experience of gender, you shouldn't trivialize a similar centralization of the same topic when people in the male situation examine the workings of gender".

Trans women may not regard themselves as ever having been male, but they started off barred from a range of women's experience and women's existence, so they still have the experience of staring at this phenomenon from the outside. Being deprived of it.


I personally am one of the odd gender-variant folks whose identity is subsumed in the "Q" rather than the "T" of LGBTQIA. I am not a transitioner and I don't present as female; I neither pass nor seek to pass. That puts me on a somewhat different trajectory in approaching this issue. I'm perhaps more inclined to emphasize the priorities in life that make me one of the girls and not one of the boys, and the tastes in movies and books, porn and erotica, and nuances of behavior, as ways in which who I am is femme, the self that I am is a person who is one of the gals and not one of the guys. I can't strike a pose and display my feminine appearance and say "See?" Not because I don't have a feminine appearance, but because to see it requires a mental translation that most people aren't equipped to make; it's discernable to people who can abstract the feminine as a way of being in the world and then apply it as a style to the physically male body without finding any conflict or discrepancy in that.

My own sexual orientation is not towards male folks, and that probably worked against me developing any particular interest in having the appearance of a female person (the existence of lesbians not being sufficient to offset that). Instead I found myself pining for a visit to a world where the dynamics were inverted. To be sought after, to live in a world where the people to whom I'm attracted might seek me.

More analytically, I already knew how to want. But since I'd always considered myself to be one of the girls, therefore an equal to them, for me to want meant also wanting to be wanted in return, mutually, and reciprocally. And to not want sexual access doled out as a reward or favor or earned on merit. That's unappealing. A gal needs to be craved a bit, prized and cherished.



———————

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 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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Trappings. Presentation.

You've seen the gender unicorn and the similar posters that break down elements of sex and gender and sexual orientation and so on?

Today I want to write about one of the ones that often falls through the cracks: PRESENTATION.

It isn't gender identity. It isn't physical morphology. It isn't sexual orientation. It's how you market yourself, appearance-wise, to the rest of the human community, to be seen as a certain gender. It's also your success or failure in doing so: how you are perceived by others, largely as a consequence of your presentation.


I happen to be wearing a skirt tonight. No particular reason. I own skirts, I like them. This one is a Talbots, denim, in my size (15), and I am fond of it because it has back pockets and belt loops. For a person who wears jeans a lot, having skirts that accommodate the same pocket and belt paraphernalia is a plus.

And I do wear jeans a lot. I am femme, I am gal, and I look good in jeans. I patch my jeans when they age and make an art project of them. I don't cease to be femme or cease to be gal when I'm in jeans. Cisgender gals are still gals when they're in jeans, so why shouldn't I?

I have facial hair. I didn't grow any until I was 15, but then my body's hormones made them. They were soft and natural and I liked them. I have no issue with my body. It's the one I was born in. It makes hairs in places where most girl-people don't get hairs. Yeah, look: I'm not required to try to pass as a cisgender woman in order to qualify for my gender identity. If the majority of women grew hairs here and it was the boys who didn't, they'd cultive them, they'd adorn them, they'd make sure you saw that the had them. My body grown hairs here.

I'm femme, or girl, or gal. I don't owe you or anyone else physical femaleness. Any more than I owe you XX chromosomes.


There are two parts of the presentation phenomenon:

a) My efforts, and how I think of them, to elicit from you and the rest of the world a gender assignment that comes close to the truth; and

b) How it goes over, how it is perceived.

Both of these belong on the gender unicorn. They are a part of what makes us us. They're different from our gender identity itself, although they're usually affected by it. They're not necessarily the same value as what we were assigned by birth, although they could be, for those of us who are cisgender.

Presentation is social. It's like marketing. How one brands one's self. Look, see, I have physical male characteristics that I could choose to get rid of, but I also choose garments and adornments that most people who identify as "men" would not wear. My selections are made with an awareness of other folks' possible perceptions.

We're all limited by the possibilities that are in other people's heads, although we can riff on themes that people are familiar with. None of us is 100% free from the matrix of gendered expectations and the array of gender identities that people think you and I might have.


———————

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

———————

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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Part of the System

A lot of people appear to think it's a radical critique of our society to stare at the unfairness of inequality and resent the privileged few who undeservedly sit in power.

It isn't.

Many people go beyond hating the unnecessary division into winners and losers and get really irate about how the privileged ones don't play fairly even by the rules that already give them a ridiculous number of official advantages. And they seem to believe they're speaking truth to power when they say so.

They aren't.

We once may have had a social system where everyone believed their social status was fairly doled out to them by God or fate, and that we were all in the position we were supposed to be and deserved to be, but that was replaced quite some time ago.

It turned out to be more efficient to have the have-nots and marginalized people glaring at the entitled and saying to themselves and their neighbors, "Those people have done nothing to deserve their position. Why should it be them? I think it should far more righteously be someone like me sitting there all cushy and comfortable".

Envy of the powerful is not a critique of the system, it's a component of it. If there weren't resentful left-out oppressed people unhappy about their lot in life, the system would find it useful to create them.

The powerful get to strut and push out their chests and say "I got it so good, so much better than those folks. Everybody wishes they were me!" They get that and they also get to feel wily and clever, and lucky, because yes they game the system, they get opportunities not on merit but through who they know, and by one hand washing the other, and by being given a courteous nod from the rules-enforcers as they break rules. So in addition to getting to look over at the rest of us and feel superior, they get the satisfying secret rush of feeling like they're getting away with stuff.

Oh yes, they don't so much feel that they deserve what they've got, not in a merit-based kind of way, so much as they feel like you and I would do exactly the same thing if we had the opportunity and the smarts to take advantage of it like they did. That's almost exactly what they'd say: "You know those people in the streets complaining about inequality and unfairness, they'd jump on any chance to game the system if they saw one, because it's all corrupt so why not? I did! We're all the same!"

What do the entitled powerful people not get? They don't get to live peacefully in voluntary cooperation with free neighbors. They don't get to live in a world based on trust and sharing. But, hey, they get to feel better than you, that must count for something, right? And the shelves of our markets glitter with luxuries in response to them saying, "I have power, I can have anything I want! Now...what the hell's worth having?"

Getting you to envy them, getting you to see it as fundamentally unfair that it is them and not you, is not a bug of the system. It's a feature.

As long as everyone, privileged and disenfranchised alike, thinks that the privileged folks have it better than they could have it any other way, that the oppressors oppress because they can, we're effectively saying "Yeah, because who wouldn't?" We're agreeing with the powerful who say we'd do what they're doing if we had the opportunity.

And as long as people think that way, they aren't seeing the whole system as stupid and unnecessary. They aren't seeing that we could share what we have and live as equals and cooperate voluntarily in peace and freedom. They aren't seeing that that's more desirable for everyone. So they have no vision of that, they have no hope of that.

Resenting and hating the privileged isn't revolutionary. Envy is always resentful (if it were not, it would merely be admiration). Envy always aspires to have what the envied have. That doesn't facilitate revolutions. It facilitates rotations.

We're being played.


———————

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 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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Outsider Radical Feminist

I rewatched I Am Not an Easy Man just the other day. It's a gender-inversion movie that uses the "shoe on the other foot" to make salient points about gendered roles and expectations and assumptions, and does it very cleverly and with a lot of granular nuance.

It ends with main characters Damien and Alexandra trying to call out and reach out to each other from opposite sides of a passing parade of marching feminists.

Nothing in this movie was done by accident. There truly are complexities that get erased in order to put slogans on banners or shout them out as chants, and for this movie to end with that scene is to pin that fact as filmmaker Eléonore Pourriat's last word to us.



Patriarchy creates toxically masculinized boys out of males in the same coercive manner that it replicates the rest of its structures, and until a significant portion of male people and the primary core of radical feminists realize how destructive this is to the males, and quit treating patriarchy as male people expressing themselves freely to a self-satisfied and oppressive conclusion, nothing's going to change.

Feminism is of course concerned with women's status and the liberation of women, and should be. There are some who would say I, as a male person, should not identify as a radical feminist. There are some who would say that transgender women, having originallly been designated and treated as male, should be excluded at least in some circumstances from feminism, for similar reasons. I don't identify as a man, but I'm perhaps more willing to recognize the nuances and complexities than many of my transgender allies and colleagues. (Some of them fault me for that and consider me to be a poor ally for that very reason).

In my second book, That Guy in our Women's Studies Class, I refer to myself at one point as "a nomenclaturally problematic participant in the social struggle against patriarchy that is known as ‘feminism’ ". Whether you call me "radical feminist" or not, I'm engaged in the struggle as I see it, and I see it as clearly as I do in large part because of the illumination of radical feminist theory.

The most visionary and idealistic radical feminist theory says men are not radical feminists' enemy.


Blame has no part in the agenda of the women's movement...Though men regard and treat us as their deadliest enemy, men are not our enemy. Feminism, as the biophilic philosophy and world view that it is, has no place for the concept of "enemy"


-- Sonia Johnson


The same is of course true of transgender women (and transgender men). I don't identify as a man. I don't identify as a transgender person either, to be precise -- I prefer "genderqueer" -- but in any binary split of the world into transgender and cisgender where everyone is assigned to one or the other, I'm trans, not cis, by the definitions in current use.

Some of you may be thinking of me as male, others as a transgender person, but in neither case am I an enemy of radical feminism. But I'm an outsider, a marginally located person because my vantage point is different than that of typical radical feminist women. My feet are in a different place; my situation is different, my experience likewise, and I will see some things less clearly and others more clearly, as a consequence.


If men are not the enemy and transgender folks are not the enemy, how about ideologies and philosophies? I've encountered radical feminists who have said that "transgenderism" or "gender theory" -- if not the people who adhere to it, insofar as they're just misled and confused -- is the enemy. But ideologies and philosophies don't think. They don't behave. They're actually a compendium of the concepts and ideas of individual people, that's all. I won't deny that in a world where such a large percentage of people don't do their own theorizing and instead subscribe to an established theory and join with others who have done so, one established school of thought or theoretical viewpoint can be inimical to another. But let's try to avoid having abstractions dashing around doing things while stripping individuals of responsibility for our own thoughts, shall we? People think. And although we're collectively discouraged from taking ourselves seriously, people theorize.

So if we aren't enemies, all that remains is communication. Each of us gaining from considering the view from where another person stands.


---

Prior blog post reviewing I Am Not an Easy Man


———————

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

———————

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

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Index of all Blog Posts
comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth -- https://ahunter3.dreamwidth.org/74247.html#comments

Social

What does it *mean* to say something is socially constructed or that it gets its meaning from a social context?


When I selected a panel to discuss my book GenderQueer, one of the panelists I picked was Ann Menasche, who at one point said


... I think it's better to challenge directly the hierarchical social construction of gender roles... that put both sexes into boxes... rather than create a new minority that we call genderqueer.

The main character Derek doesn't deny his sex... he does distinguish between sex and gender which I think is important.


...and I also picked Rachel Lange, who argued that

social construct doesn't just mean society created it, it's a social thing... to pick and choose how one walks in the world


I want to go back and unpack some of the important differences between the notion that "socially constructed" means "it is artificial, not real" and the viewpoint that "socially constructed" means "it could be constructed differently". I think it's an important distinction.

Both viewpoints are opposed to the idea that the thing in question is built in, that it is inevitable and unchangeable and permanently the way that we see it today. This is also an important thing to understand, because sometimes the folks who think of "socially constructed" as the same thing as "artificial" seem to think that anyone who doesn't dismiss it as an artificial fake belief must believe it is permanent and forever.

We have a long history of seeing a commonly believed idea or attitude and deciding that the only reason most folks ascribe to it is because they're surrounded by other folks who ascribe to it, and there's pressure to go along with it. People used to believe that it was evil to be left-handed, that sex was sinful unless you got married, that royalty and nobility was made up of people with a different built-in character than the impoverished masses, that there were witches amongst us who did evil on behalf of the devil, that women were less intelligent and had less character than men, that there is a God who will judge us when we die, that having a window open at night put your health at risk from the miasmas of noctural air, that homosexuality is sinful and wrong, that if you have a vulva and clitoris you are a girl or woman and will exhibit feminine traits, that you are motivated by women's priorities and will ascribe to women's value systems and exhibit womanly nuances, virtues, and tastes. Or that if you don't, you're doing things all wrong because you're supposed to.

You can still find people who believe any one of these things but it is no longer socially unacceptable to not believe them all, and we recognize that there is truth in the notion that at least most of the people in the past who believed all these things did so for social reasons. They believed them because they were surrounded by other people who believed them. They believed them because everyone around them expected them to believe them. They believed them because they rarely if ever encountered anyone who believed something different. They believed them because to believe otherwise would make a person behave differently and think differently and such a person would not fit in.

It is easy from our 21st century 2021 vantage point to roll our eyes a bit at these beliefs. But perhaps we embrace and use social constructs of our own day with the same nearly-automatic compliance that folks back then gave to these old concepts. And if we can see through some of them intellectually, we still have to interact socially. To walk in the world, as Rachel Lange put it.

We use language; presumably you read, speak, and do much of your conscious thinking in English, since you're reading this. We know that these sounds and syllables don't have any intrinsic meaning, that they only have meaning that is socially constructed. We know this because we have encountered folks who speak other languages instead, folks to whom the sounds and sentences of English don't convey any meaning. But consider for a moment how difficult it would be to wrap your head around that awareness if there were only one surviving human language. I remember exactly that experience from early childhood, in fact: the first time I encountered the idea of a different language, I couldn't grasp it. (Our words mean what they mean, why would someone use something else?)

Heterosexuality is a social construct. There is a set of courting and flirting behaviors, a set of ways to signal sexual-romantic interest. Like the syllables of the English language, they don't simply "mean what they mean" and they vary between cultures and eras. We learn them from being surrounded by people who engage in them; in our era we learn them from movies, books, theatre, and popular songs. Heterosexuality as we know it is gender-polarized. What a person does means something different depending on whether they do it as a man or do it as a woman. Gendered behaviors become eroticized for us: high heels and stockings and red lipstick are feminine mostly because we have learned them to be feminine. And so it is with femininity and masculinity in their entirety. They are social constructs.

But while that does mean that they could be configured differently, that doesn't mean that the aware and cognizant person realizes that they are artificial and dismisses them successfully with a wave of the hand and can easily go forth and interact with all those unfounded ungrounded notions dismissed from their thoughts and feelings. The English language is a social construct but you need a language to function. And we tend to need a gender language because that's the world into which we were born.

Not everyone is heterosexual. Meaning (since hetersexuality is a social construct, as you'll recall) that some people situate their identities outside instead of inside that particular dance. That doesn't mean they aren't largely defined by it. Gay people interact with gendered expectations too, sometimes embracing sometimes negating, but affected by those notions and roles and how behaviors are interpreted. Gay and lesbian identities are also socially constructed. Sexuality, in the complete sense of what we know to be sexual, what we know to be sexy, what behaviors are marked off as sexual behaviors, not to mention all the notions of love, being in love, romantic love, sex with love, sex without love, all that is a set of social constructs. Stuff that could be set up very differently. Did you know that there were once no gay people? I don't mean people of a given sex never got it on with other folks of that same sex — they did, of course — but they weren't conceived of as "being gay". You could not have come out as gay in that era regardless of how brave you are, because no one would have been able to comprehend what you were talking about. Or if you were really determined to do so, you would have to invent your own terms and spend a lot of time and energy explaining their meaning to people who had never encountered such concepts. And most of them would dismiss you as crazy: because most of us are resistant to new ideas until we hear them put into words by a critical mass of other people.

I get to call myself "genderqueer" because there's a word for it now. If you recognize me as male of body but think of me as one of the women, with assumptions and expectations and interpretations applied accordingly, you would be stereotyping me, oversimplifying who I am, but you'd be on the right track. If instead I said you should not harbor any sexist expectations of me and expect anything based on me being male that you wouldn't expect if I'd been female, you're less likely to suspend expectations and beliefs you're probably not fully aware that you have.

Social reality interacts with physical reality (biological and otherwise) in sort of the same way that a computer's operating system and programs interact with the hardware. The software can't do absolutely anything — the hardware really does exist and it imposes some limits; and for any given part of the hardware to be used, we can assume that there has to be some software ("drivers") that deal with it somehow. But most of the experience we associate with "using my computer" is about the specifics of the software that runs on it. That's an analogy, of course, and like all analogies has its own limitations, but I think it's a good one. I consider my body to have a physical sex. Gender is the driver. Mine is 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

———————

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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BOOK REVIEW: Birdie and Me, J. M. M. Nuanez

Excerpt from page 22 --




He never wears skirts or dresses to school because he says they aren't comfortable for dodgeball, which is another thing Birdie likes. Even still, most people do notice that Birdie doesn't dress like most boys. But his pink and purple shirts, rainbow shoes, and leggings covered in pink donuts, and everything else, have never really been a problem.


Birdie is a nine year old child. He is assigned by everyone as a boy, at which point it is often remarked upon that he wears "girl clothes", or at least clothes that other boys won't and don't, purple scarves and items with spangles, not to mention fixing his hair in pigtails and painting his nails with nail polish. And learning to sew, in order to be able to make his own versions of what he sees in fashion magazines.

Jack is Birdie's older sister and the narrator of the story; we see the events, and Birdie, through Jack's eyes. Jack's friend Janet, who aspires to a job in a hairdressing salon and doesn't wish to wait until adulthood, describes Jack's sense of style and presentation as "a disaster". But aside from Janet, very few people comment as much about Jack's own variance from gender expectations the way they remark on Birdie's.



There is a lot that I like about J. M. M. Nuanez's Birdie and Me (New York: Kathy Dawson Books: 2020). You know how lots of people have said they want to see more books featuring gay and lesbian and trans characters that don't make the fact that the character is LGBT the focus of the novel? Well, here's one like that for the rest of us. The book has characters who are gender-atypical in some unspecified, undisclosed type, and yet the book isn't about that.

I try to read several new books featuring folks who are at least somewhat like me every year. A lot of them are sort of polemical and didactic, if you know what I mean: "See, folks, here is a little trans girl; see, some people accept her but other people misgender her and they act all hostile and belligerent. See how the mean ones are evil and horrible and wrong? See why everybody ought to accept people like her?" and so on.

Birdie and Me has some hostility and identity-acceptance elements woven into the plot, don't get me wrong, but it's less a conflict between being phobic versus affirmative than it is a conflict between what is socially safe and what is important for expressing one's true self, and how adult protectiveness and authority gets stirred into that issue. People who are responsible for others are often torn between wanting their children or their charges to keep their head down, to stay out of trouble, or supporting their self-expresson.

This is a tale where any initial tendency (whether on the part of the reader or on the part of the characters themselves) to sort the world into good people and bad people runs into complexities and inconsistencies.

Nuanez has a skill for gradual character development, blocking out whole people from their behaviors and observable nuances as seen from the outside. The pacing is a brisk strolling speed, languid enough to keep questions floating but fast enough to keep you immersed in what's happening. This book is appropriate for middle grades but I'd recommend it for adults, who should find it both thought-stimulating and entertaining.



If you are a person who doesn't easily find your own identity type emblazoned on the title of any message board or Facebook group, if you've hovered around support groups for transgender and nonbinary and genderqueer and genderfluid and gender nonconformist groups and asked yourself and other people "Do you think this label describes me? I was thinking I was more *this label* but lately I've been thinking this *other label* fits me better?", well, here's a book that features one of us.


"So, Birdie," Janet says, breaking the silence. "Do you think you're gay?" I'm too shocked to say anything.

"I don't know," says Birdie in a small voice.

"Do you want to be boyfriends with girls or boys?"

"I don't want to be boyfriends with anybody."

"Janet," I say, "this has nothing to do with being boyfriends with anyone. And I"ve already talked to him about that."

"Okay, okay," she says, waving her hands at me. She turns back to Birdie. "So, do you feel like youre a girl, then? Have you ever heard of the word transgender?" ...

"I don't know," says Birdie, shrugging. "Everyone says I'm a boy."

"But what about on the inside? Do you feel like you're a girl on the inside?"

Birdie shrugs for the millionth time. "I don't know. Sometimes I wish I was a girl because then it would make everything easier. But I don't know what my mind is." He looks down at this shoes again. "Is it bad that I don't know?"


-- pp 185-186


This book, by never handing Birdie or us an identity-conclusion, tells us in a quiet but proud voice that our identity is valid without a label to put on it. That it is valid even if it seems to fall between the cracks and not fit into transgender or genderqueer or anything else we've heard about.

———————

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

———————

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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comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth -- https://ahunter3.dreamwidth.org/73873.html#comments

On Being Oblivious

I'm often oblivious to how other people perceive me. People can be nudging their companions and inviting them to check me out with a nod in my direction. I don't notice.

I don't internalize any observations about how a way of dressing or a way of behaving has generated reactions when other people do them.

I don't mean I don't notice patterns at all. I do. By the time I was in second grade, I had observed that there were differences in how girls and boys behaved. The girls were doing it right. The place where being oblivious kicked in had to do with anticipating or predicting how other people would react or how they'd think about something.

I didn't anticipate that anyone would have a problem with me deciding that the girls were doing it right, or with me choosing to copy the girls' behaviors and adopt their priorities and values and stuff.

I was also amazingly unaware of how folks actually did feel and react. It could be going on right there around me and I wouldn't notice anything except the most overt hostile behavior, and when I did, I didn't connect it up to any widely shared social attitudes. It was just Billy or Ronnie being a jerk.

I did, eventually, make the observation that I was lonely and didn't have many friends, and that I had the poor misfortune of getting stuck in classrooms with an astonishingly high number of crude stupid hateful people.

I kept expecting it to be different. New year, new classroom. There was no reason people wouldn't like me, after all.

You could say I wasn't getting it.



* * *


A couple years ago, I was on a message board where several people were debating whether or not it is sexist and horribly limited to think differently of a person's behavior depending on their perceived sex. One person said this: "If I were thinking about dating a woman, and it turns out she was violating all the expectations about a woman's sexual behavior, I'd have some concerns, yeah. Not because the same behavior is wrong or worse when it's a female person doing it, but because the expectations exists, and she's not giving them any consideration. So I'd wonder why she would leave herself open to the resultant judgment and hostility. That seems immature, not taking care of yourself and your own reputation. So I'd be concerned about what other kinds of common sense she doesn't have".

That is a conservative philosphy: for anyone who embraces it, it preaches conformity to expectations, not because the expectations are inherently good but because it's "for your own good" that you don't stick out and draw hostile attention.

In contrast to that, my way of being oblivious to people's expectatons is not just a cutely absent-minded cluelessness, it's a protective mechanism, an insulating blanket that keeps me from being too aware of what other people think and how they're likely to react.

It's a survival mechanism that I bet lots of marginalized people have employed in various forms. Learning to doublethink around the threats of social reaction. Learning how to take enough of those patterns into account that you are able to deal with the hostility when you have to, but without being any more aware of it than you need to be.


———————

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

———————

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

————————


Index of all Blog Posts
comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth -- https://ahunter3.dreamwidth.org/73472.html#comments

TERF Wars: Feminists Against Gender and Transgender Warriors Against TERFs, Conclusion (for the mome

Our local Green Party chapter recently had Cynthia BrianKate, a transgender and intersex activist, as a presenter / guest speaker.


In the weeks before her appearance, she expressed dismay that last fall I had signed a petition favoring "dialog, not expulsion" of the Georgia chapter of the Green Party. Cynthia BrianKate joins many other trans activists and supporters within the Greens in thinking that the Georgia chapter is unapologetically transphobic and full of TERFs and TERF sympathizers and should get booted to the curb, so why was I supporting these folks who were running to their aid?


I owe Cynthia, the Lavender Caucus of the Green Party, and transgender activists in general an explanation, perhaps an apology. Let's start with explanation.



The Georgia chapter of the Green Party signed or endorsed a statement about women's sex-based rights. I read it. I would not have signed it myself. I felt like it contained language that was insensitive to trans women at best and denied the legitimacy of their identity at worst, depending on one's tendency to interpret dog whistles.

But I'm not a fan of "You said something wrong! You are bad and must be punished! I am absolutely right and you are absolutely wrong and there's no room for discussion" types of stances. So when I was approached and asked if I would support -- literally -- dialog with the Greens, as the next step, not expulsion of them -- I agreed. And (perhaps foolishly) thought I could bridge communication gaps between the parties involved.

That's really it in a nutshell.



Here are some additional details and elaborations.

Why (you might be wondering) would I think I was in a position to mediate between these parties?

I was born male. I’d place the timeframe as between first grade (when I don’t recall any awareness of it) and second grade (when I do) as when I became conscious of being at odds with gender expectations. Specifically that who I was was more akin to being one of the girls. And I was proud of that.

But I never felt dysphoria about my body. I was okay with being a male person, a person in a male body, who was one of the girls and not one of the boys.

And to drop this timeframe into a larger context, I graduated high school in 1977 and came out in 1980. How I identified would nowadays be called "nonbinary" or "nonbinary trans" or "genderqueer", but there was no such word and no so such concept back then; and although I recognized that my situation had stuff in common with the situation of gay folks and also with trans people, I did not find a social home in that community. What community? Trans people themselves weren't really very included with the gay and lesbian folks yet. No one was saying LGBT in the 70s, let alone LGBTQ.

The political people who were saying the most relevant things were the feminists. That double standards, where the same behavior or trait is valued differently depending on whether you're male or female, or where people have different standards of how you're supposed to be and behave, were sexist and wrong. That the attribution of masculinity to male people and femininity to female people was social, not built-in.

So I went to the university and majored in women's studies. Essentially I ran off to join the feminists.

I can't claim that I was fully accepted and understood in that community either, but it's important for people like the Lavender Caucus folks to understand that for most of my life the LGBTQ community wasn't an "us" that I belonged to. It wasn't a place where I was understood and my identity embraced.

Trans people back then didn't include people who didn't transition (or at least want to). At a minimum, if you identified as a woman, you were supposed to want to be perceived and thought of as female-bodied. You were supposed to want to pass.

Nowadays, the "big tent / umbrella" definition of transgender includes people like me, but because of concern for people who can't or don't do a medical transition, the attitude from the tent feels like our genital parts are an embarrassing thing that should be ignored lest they make our gender identity less valid. That makes it still not a completely warm and welcoming home for me, if you see what I mean. I'm not a cis woman, I'm male not female, and my tendency is to be in your face about being both a femme girl and a physically male person.


In my previous blog post, I wrote about how feminists tend to see gender as chains, as constraints. They believe that if we could get rid of sexist expectations and sexist notions, there would be no gender, because being male or female of body would have no social implications as far as how people think of you, or how you would think of yourself. (Interestingly, some of the people who commented on that post dissented to say that only TERFs would believe that, that real feminists embrace gender).


I don't fully agree with this "gender is just bad let's erase it" view, whether it is or isn't a typical feminist belief. I say "not fully" because I agree with it somewhat. Where I dissent is that we -- you and I and all of us -- we live in this world, this social world, and we are affected by gender; there may come a day when gender no longer exists, but before that can happen there first needs to be a world where you can be any physical sex and it doesn't determine your gender, and before we can get to neutral no-gendered-expectations we've got to create some social space for inverts. You can't move directly from a world where male people are boys and female people are girls to a world where being male isn't associated with being boyish and being female isn't tied to being girlish. You first have to confront some male girls and female boys and get to the point of recognizing them as okay people.

Mainstream trans rhetoric may seem at first glance to be there, but it's really not. Instead of saying "There are male girls and female boys and they can be proud of that", it says "If you say you're a girl, you're a girl; if you say you're a boy, you're a boy, and it's not polite to conjecture about what's in people's underpants". And lurking in the shadows of the hidden physical attributes that you're not supposed to conjecture about is the remaining fear that if you have male bits down there you aren't as girl as someone with female parts, and vice versa for the boyish folks.


TERF, of course, means trans EXCLUSIVE. As in "excluding trans women from what we mean when we say 'women'". And this exclusion plays right into that area of sensitivity, making an issue of whether a person was born with a vulva and clitoris or born with a penis and testicles instead. Hardly a surpise that trans activists perceive it as an assault on trans identities.

Is it always?


Trans women are women, period. But is it ever okay to exclude them?


Feminist women often consider people who were viewed and treated as female since their birth to be in a different social situation than people who were initially perceived and treated as male. The latter, they say, have been beneficiaries of male privilege even if they identify as women and are now perceived and treated as women. And, they sometimes also say, we want to organize as the former, as people who have always been in the social situation of being regarded and treated as female in a patriarchal society.

I am open to that argument even if many transgender activists are most vehemently not.

I have to say, though, that in any plural convocation of people who were taking that position, I have found at least a handful of genuinely bigoted intolerant hateful folks. Women who believe people who were born with penis and testicles were also born with a violent nature, a desire to dominate, a predisposition to destroy and kill and subjugate. An evil nature. Women who believe that patriarchy is male people expressing themselves and their natural built-in traits, and that males are the problem. Other feminists in their midst don't call them on it. And they won't embrace me as a feminist nor my trans sisters as women, because of it.

But because I was open to an argument that treats sex as one thing and gender as another -- because I treat them as separate components of my own identity -- I could see some possible merit to the "sex based rights" position, even if it is often voiced by trans-misogynist hateful people.

So for that reason I signed in support of having an actual dialog, and to find out where the Georgia Greens were actually coming from.


———————

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

———————

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

————————


Index of all Blog Posts
comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth -- https://ahunter3.dreamwidth.org/73379.html#comments

TERF Wars: Feminists Against Gender and Transgender Warriors Against TERFs

How it was, historically, is that one had a genital configuration, and that determined your social role, your gender.

Feminists and trans folks agree: that's restrictive and it stunts and impairs people, so we say NO to that. Your genital configuration shall NOT define your identity, and we shall be free to be, you and me.

So we're on the same page and we're together on this? Well, no. We're at each other's throats. How'd that happen?

Well, feminists tend to look at gender and see nothing but chains. Gender is that mishmosh of sexist expectations and attitudes and double standards. Gender is where you get treated differently depending on whether you've been classified as a woman or a man; so that's what we're against, right?

But the LGBTQIA community, supporting its transgender component, embraces gender. Gender is your identity, whether you identify as a man or a woman or neither or something different, or perhaps one of those on some days and a different one on other days. The important thing is that it is not defined by your genital configuration, it's how you identify that defines your gender, got it?

Many feminists shake their head at that. If your physical sexual morphology no longer defines you as being this kind of person or that kind of person, why would we continue to harbor notions of "this kind of person" versus "that kind of person" as concrete separate identities? So somehow for these transgender folks, gender still exists, but not anchored to genitals. Genital-free gender. Well, if it isn't composed entirely of the social attitudes and expectations that we're overthrowing, what's it made up of?

Outspoken trans people tell their tales, what it was like. Gender is real for them, important. I was expected to be playing football, cussing, sitting with my legs open wide, hitting on girls, but just hitting boys, and that was all wrong for me. I wanted to wear skirts and sparkly things, and have long hair and be flirty, and I wanted to dance.

The feminists glance at each other and shake their heads, because in a world without gender roles and expectations, you wouldn't be expected to play football or wear sparkly things. That, they say, is the whole point. We want to tear down the fence that keeps people on one side or the other side of the gender pasture, and you trans folks just want to hop over the fence in order to be confined to the other side!

So, communications breakdown.


Trans people, and the LGBTQIA world of which they are a part, do tend to talk about gender as if it is self-explanatory and as if, except for emphasizing that it doesn't have anything to do with what's between your legs, it's all self-explanatory and quite real. And feminists, meanwhile, talk about gender as if it consists entirely of things you can't do or ways in which other people don't see you and your traits and accomplishments; they see it as entirely composed of social beliefs and not real, just ideology.

I don't agree with either side.

First off, I think gender is composed of social beliefs, but social beliefs are real things. We have to deal with them, we are social creatures.

Second, they consist of more than restrictions and chains. Let me elaborate on that. When people talk about "gender roles" the examples are often broad klunky things like "the man was expected to go to work and earn money, the woman was supposed to stay home and raise children and cook and clean house". But when people talk about roles in a movie or a stage play, they describe characters and personalities, behaviors in a fully fleshed out way. It's like the difference between talking about the role of king and the role of King Lear. The first is a social office but the second is a sort of archetype of a way of being in the world. We can establish a chartered egalitarian representative democracy and not have a king, and say that anyone who thinks they are a king is delusional and anyone who aspires to be one is politically reactionary. But if someone finds strength and inspiration by channelling the character of King Richard the Lion-hearted, (perhaps as portrayed onscreen or onstage by their favorite actor), they're doing a different thing; they're drawing upon a library of behavioral nuances and expressions, attitudes and charisma, examples of how to behave in various situations, ways of conducting one's self socially.

And we all use those. We are social creatures. We learned how to be who we are in social interaction by borrowing and emulating bits and pieces of how we saw others being, bits that resonated with us. Like assembling a wardrobe of clothing from borrowed apparel, we try on things to see if they fit us, and what we keep, over time, is what fits best and expresses who we are.

Gender is like that.

Yes, over time, after a few generations of people not harboring and embracing rigid notions of how folks with a clitoris and vulva are quite different from folks with a penis and testicles, these available libraries of roles should diverge from being anchored, erotically or otherwise, in one sex or the other. But the ones we grew up with mostly are sex-specific, aren't they? Rather than showing us a way of being in the world, they mostly exhibit to us examples of how to be a man (this kind of man, that kind of man, this other kind of man) or how to be a woman (lots of diversity here too but a very different library of how-to-be than the man library, yes?).

So, transgender (and genderqueer and etc) people. People who find it empowering to draw heavily on the library that has historically been marked as gendered for people of a different physical body than the one they've got.

Can you see how that's different from "hugging one's own chains"?


Next episode: remedial laws and policies anchored in one's physical sex, not gender, and how that has pitted transgender women and feminists against each other


———————

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

———————

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

————————


Index of all Blog Posts
comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth -- https://ahunter3.dreamwidth.org/73026.html#comments

Panel Discussion of GenderQueer! (on YouTube)

Watch:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZXzNyCf4aI


THE PANELISTS

Esther Lemmens -- Esther is the founder of the Fifty Shades of Gender podcast, where she gets curious about all things gender, sex and sexuality, exploring stories from gender-diverse folks with inclusion, acceptance and respect.

https://www.fiftyshadesofgender.com/

———

Ann Menasche -- Ann is a radical lesbian-feminist and socialist activist and a founding member of the radical feminist organization, Feminists in Struggle.

https://feministstruggle.org/

———

Rachel Lange -- Rachel Lange is the editor of QueerPGH, and a freelance writer and editor. They live in Pittsburgh, PA.

https://www.queerpgh.com/

———


Moderator: Cassandra Lems

———————

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

———————

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

————————


Index of all Blog Posts
comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth -- https://ahunter3.dreamwidth.org/72847.html#comments