Feminist Says Men's Plight Isn't Feminists' Responsibility

There's a feminist group where the prevailing attitude isn't too enthusiastic about transgender women and their politics.

I had said something there about perhaps viewing sexual transitioning as male people's grapping with the "man" identity that is imposed on us and thinking about it that way. "It's not up to women to save men from themselves, whether they identify as trans or not", she replied.

That's worth a reply.



I'm reminded of what Robin Morgan once wrote about "feminism for the sake of women" -- she said that if equality and simple justice for women "... were the sole reasons for and goals of the movement and consciousness we call feminism, they would be quite sufficient...nor is it necessary to apologize for feminism's concerning itself 'merely' with women, or to justify feminism on the 'please, may I' ground that it's good for men too."

(from The Anatomy of Freedom)

Morgan, however, was in the process of noting that nevertheless, it is of benefit to males as well. Patriarchy, and its rigid gender roles, is not good for us, any of us, and feminism, in moving against that, represents the possibility of our freedom from that.

One thing this means is that as feminist activity over the last few decades has moved some social pieces around and freed up some possibilities, it is inevitable that some males will take any opportunity that this motion generates, to move towards their own freedom.

Look... there cannot be a feminist success without the males changing. We can't remain in the same patterns, exhibiting the same behaviors, clinging to the same values, if feminists are to succeed at what they're doing. You know that very well. Demanding change from us has been central to your social demands. So, my feminist comrades... how did you picture that change taking place, may I ask? Did you envision us kicking and screaming and resisting the whole way? Surely you know better!

So some of the changes, as they actually occur among the males, will be more optimal from your vantage point than others.

You're right, it isn't your responsibility to lead our changes. It also isn't your authority. (Or if you claim authority, with that comes responsibility. You can't have it both ways).

But either way, it doesn't mean feminists have no vested interest in our processes.


If you never took some time to wonder exactly what you would do if you had been born male, how you personally would steer a life that would honor your self authentically yet not violate feminist principles, then I suggest you do so. Otherwise, how would you ever look upon any of us and recognize whether or not we're doing what you would?


———————


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

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


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



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

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What If I'm Wrong?

Everyone need to explore that question on occasion. In my case, I've spent the last 10 years disagreeing with the transgender "party line" that has developed around sex versus gender -- that gender (how one identifies) matters, whereas sex, if it even exists (instead of just being binary reductionistic rhetoric), is unimportant and nobody's business. "Trans women are women", goes the party line; "trans men are men; and what someone has inside their underpants isn't any concern of yours".

I have dissented with that, saying that, first off, I identify as a male girl, or male femme, and I'd feel just as erased if people started treating me as indistinguishable from cisgender women as I do when people treat me as the same as cisgender men. My lifetime experiences and the specifics of my situation that make me who I am involve not just my sex and not just my gender but the unorthodox atypical combo of the two.

I have said that the mainstream transgender attitude -- although it superficially says that your physical sexual morphology does not matter and shouldn't be the focus of anyone's attention -- it's actually expressing the fear that if someone happens to be woman or femme but their physiology is of the sort that a crowd of random strangers on a nude beach would call "male", then their gender is less valid than if they had the physical configuration that those same strangers would describe as "female". So we should be polite and not pay any attention to the physical structure.

I've said that attitude is fearful and actually sexually conservative, and that what I'm doing is more progressive and radical. I'm demanding acceptance as a femme and being in-your-face about being male of body, not seeking to present as female.



So... about the possibility of being wrong...



What if the route to true sexual equality, and attaining a world where the physical parts you were born with do not matter as far as determining who you get to be, lies with the species as a whole learning to ignore sexual physiology?

What if the route I'm proposing doesn't work -- either because people won't let go of gendered expectations if they take notice of a person's physiological construction or because with an observable difference they'll make generalizations, and even if they aren't the same generalizations we'll be reinventing gender all over again?


Whenever I think about a world where people don't know or don't notice a person's sexual configuration, and are forced to set aside their gendered expectations and just deal with the person as a generic person, I am reminded of the Ms. Magazine story from the 1970s, X: A Fabulous Child's Story by Lois Gould. I regarded it as an adorably cute what-if sort of tale to get folks thinking about sexist expectations and all that, but I have also said that in real life it would mean putting everyone inside burquas and chadors and making the body something that one should never see, and that didn't seem like a healthy situation.

But the transgender activists I'm referring to aren't saying "the body is not to be seen" but rather "the body is not to be acknowledged". That's an important difference. They're saying learn how a person identifies and treat them accordingly and tune out any awareness you might have about the person's physiology.

Is that possible?

I think it's definitely possible at the individual level, possible that this one person or that one person could do so. We learn what is and what is not significant. We live in a culture where it isn't of very huge significance whether one is redheaded or blonde or brown-haired. I can easily believe that someone who doesn't have any better visual memory than I do might be unable to recall whether a person they saw had this hair color or that.

There's a mental process of categorization, in which we encounter a stranger and make some snap judgments so as to have something to go on as far as interpreting them. This describes the worst of stereotyping but it is also, less egregiously, a reliance upon our human skill of pattern recognition. It isn't all bad. Even recognizing a living organism as another human depends on this process. Interacting with someone as an undifferentiated human isn't terribly practical, not when we can narrow it down, not when we're prepared to reevaluate our snap categorization if it doesn't seem to apply after all. Age is important to some extent, as is culture and the possibility of a different language being spoken and a host of other such things. Could we learn to suspend expectations based on sex and enter into each such interaction fresh, with no generalizations?

Perhaps that's not so different from what I'm asking. The trans activists are saying people should learn to not assign anything on the basis of so-called sex, which may not be as apparent and as perceived anyhow. I am saying people should learn of the possibility of gender identities other than the most common for a given sex -- that if they encounter a male person, they may expect masculine, they may expect a man, but should be prepared to re-evaluate if subsequent experience indicates that that may not be the case, and they should know of the other, less common possibilities.

Maybe I'm just splitting hairs unnecessarily with this disagreement. Undeniably, transgender social rhetoric has changed the world, and I benefit. I live in suburbia -- in a northern and socially progressive state to be sure, but in an area that has its share of Republican voters and Catholic (in particular) socially conservative citizens. Yet I go out in public in a skirt and no one says anything.

Is the world substantially safer for a kid such as I was as a kid growing up today? Do I need to establish the specific identity that I conjured up for myself in 1980?

I'm still inclined to think that I do. I don't think that the me that I was at 13, 15, 16, 19, would ever have identified as transgender. Perhaps as nonbinary but that's not sufficiently out there, any more than genderqueer is. And the mainstream transgender approach just strikes me as...fragile. Incapable of withstanding the contempt of common-sense evaluation. I think my approach is considerably less so.

But it's a useful exercise to consider that maybe I'm making too much of a minor distinction in how to express an idea. I'll give it more thought.


———————


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

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


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



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

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Unsafe Spaces

"Hello", the direct message begins. "I am a senior administrator of the 'Transgender Safe Spaces'* Facebook group. Unfortunately, I need to let you know that your post from yesterday has been reported. Reported AGAIN, I should say. Whenever you post here, I get several reports on it.

"We need to have a conversation. I absolutely do NOT wish to censor you. I value alternative perspectives and ideologies because they provide me with an opening out of the bubble that social media has become. Frankly, I think your posts are well thought out and intelligently planned. I can't even say I disagree with you after reading some of your posts. But we're getting report after report from our members".



I click into the chat bubble and write back: "Hi! So what's the next step? You agree that I have something relevant to say, even though some percent of the people in the group find what I've said problematic."


The group admin replies, "I don't think we should all be hearing nothing but echoes of the things we want to hear and believe. It is good to be exposed to things that may or may not fit our own perspective. But unfortunately, not everyone agrees with that. We tend to unfriend people when they say something that contradicts our own feelings and we boot people from groups when they don't echo the group mentality. So I'm in a bit of a predicament as an administrator. You see things differently than others do. The biggest thing I see is that people aren't expecting it. People want an echo, not a controversy. They want to feel like it is a safe space, one that reflects themselves. So someone comes along with a thought that doesn't fit and they react negatively as if their safe space has been compromised".


"So far", I answer, "you've been making my points for me. I don't know what I can do that I'm not already doing. I am open to suggestions for how to modify what I say to make it more palatable, but I already feel like I expend a lot of effort trying to reach people where they are at and bring them to the perceptions that I'm trying to share with them. It's not like I can go to some other group where I'd fit in better. I don't fit in anywhere, exactly. Transgender people promise it's a big umbrella, that if your gender identity is any different from what other people assigned you as at birth, then HEY you're one of us! But apparently I'm not quite so welcome if I think thoughts that aren't like everyone else's and express them because I'm tired of being silenced and my peculiar form of gender identity denied. I'm tired of being spoken OF but not getting a chance to speak FOR MYSELF"


"I don't want to censor you", the admin repeated. "This has become a group that values selfies of transgender peple asking if they pass, or stories about abuse and trauma, or questions about hormone shot placement. I don't think there is anything wrong with your posting, but I'm afraid this is the wrong audience. I think you need to find a better place to post, where conversations and long-format posts are more embraced. I'd like to keep you around but I also need to help people feel like the group is a safe space".



But it isn't a safe space.

It clearly isn't a safe space for a minority individual who isn't like the others. Such as me. It isn't a safe space for individuals who do not fit in.

The people it is "safe" for are the most normative participants, who are being kept "safe" from the horrible threat of having to be aware of someone who is different, whose experience is different. Someone weird. Peculiar. QUEER, you could say.

This is not a cute little irony to be spoken of with a wry smile. This is a catastrophic falure of the entire purpose and mission statement of LGBTQIA+.


Trans communities are becoming unsafe spaces for queer folks.


Watch your eggshells.

I will be walking on them.


* The actual name of the Facebook group has been changed at the administrator's request.



———————


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

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


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



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

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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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BOOK REVIEW: *Across the Green Grass Fields* by Seanan McGuire

Another brave child steps through a door. Seanan McGuire's "Wayward Children" series revolves around the notion that doors present themselves to children who -- for various reasons -- don't fit in this world, offering them an opportunity to live for awhile in one or another alternative world where the principles and rules of physics and society and anything else you can imagine may be quite different.

These are stories for kids who feel like space aliens here. I just answered a query on one of my Facebook groups, a meme that read "Sometimes I feel I am not from this world. The gender binary is a myth. Why do you feel like a visiting alien?" McGuire's "Wayward Children" series is not just for those of us whose Difference is about gender, but yeah, most of us know that 'space aliens who belong somewhere else, not here' feeling quite well, don't we?



Across the Green Grass Fields breaks some of the patterns set by the previous books in the series. For one thing, this book is less dark, overall. In this one, no one is dying with their hands chopped off or their eyes surgically removed while they were still alive and conscious; none of the main characters has to experience their lover and companion being killed by their sister, and there are no animated corpses plodding along without their animating spirit. Another thing setting this book apart is that there's no mention of the school, the refuge in the world that we know for all the kids to retreat into when they lose access to their alternative worlds. Be all that as it may, this latest installment fits in nonetheless -- those of us who've read the other books see how this one continues the larger pattern. Regan will end up at the school after the events told in this story.

Regan, the main character, happens to be intersex. Complete Androgen Insensitivy Syndrome (CAIS). XY chromosomes, like a boy, but without a boy's conventional external parts, with the parts that cause one to be classified as a girl instead. She doesn't know this until she becomes concerned that her body isn't changing like that of her friends and expresses this to her parents. From their behavior, she realizes they're keeping something from her, and after some initial relucance they tell her. This is all new and startling information, and she shares it with her best friend, but her best friend is freaked out by it and rejects her.

But the story as a whole is not Regan being intersex. The story is about a girl who ends up in a world populated by centaurs and minotaurs and other variations. It's just a story in which the main character happens to be intersex.

An often-stated wish of LGBTQIA+ readers is for more books where we can read about characters who are like us, not books that are about coming to terms with that difference and coming out and so forth, but ordinary adventures and romances and mysteries and science fiction and fantasy stories where we have people like us appearing in them. Just normalize us into characterhood! Author Seanan McGuire has previously given us lesbian characters (Jack from the first three tales) and a transgender character (Kade) and didn't make the stories About Being a Lesbian (etc), but that's fairly commonplace now. To have an intersex main character in the same sense is considerably less so.

Like all of the books in this series, Across the Green Grass Fields is delightfully whimsical, conjures up a world we can believe in and might want to visit, and lets us follow the tale of a brave hero from the middle school age range. It's written to be appropriate and enticing to readers of that age but to still be fascinating and entertaining to an adult audience as well, and it succeeds in both instances, and I do recommend it.


Now, in the spirit of "a word from our sponsors", a comment about LGBTQIA+ and all that --

Inclusion means, or should mean, more than "Yeah, okay, those people can march with us too, sure, why not, give them a rainbow t-shirt to wear". It means learning about how it is and has been for people whose identifying letter in that acronym are something other than your own.

I'm not intersex myself, but I try to do that, to read and learn about all the different identities and situations that fall into the LGBTQIA+ cluster.

It means including the other folks' situation in your own thoughts and statements. And that, in turn, means more than simply remembering to use the letter "I" as well as "L", "G", "B", and "T". It means undersanding how the issues may look different to them. In the case of intersex, since that's the identity highlighted by this book, for instance, they often hear other people mentioning intersex to counter arguments about physical sex -- as in "well, intersex people exist, so attempting to speak of physical sex, like what makes you female is having a vagina, is factually wrong, physical sex doesn't really exist". Intersex people themselves don't tend to make that kind of statement. And in fact most of the intersex people I've known do not like it when sex and gender are confused! It erases their situation when people think they're the same thing as transgender, or genderqueer or bigender or genderfluid. Because it is their physical sex that sets them apart as different, as being neither male nor female in their body structure. Most of them are not happy if your main takeaway from hearing about the existence of intersex people is that sex -- as distinguished from gender -- doesn't exist!

That's just an example. I could make similar points about bisexuality. That it brings viewpoints and experiences to the table that are different from what lesbians and gay people go through. Think of the Chasing Amy experience -- being rejected by one's lesbian friends as "one of us" for becoming involved with a guy.

At a minimum, we should put the same expectations on ourselves that we put on people who say they are our cisgender / straight allies. We expect the latter to educate themselves. We expect them to go a bit beyond refraining from running around saying transgender and homosexual people are sinful and perverted.

In the name of inclusion, we need to do that for each other.


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

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


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



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

——————— comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth -- https://ahunter3.dreamwidth.org/78323.html#comments

A Choice in the Matter

In the LGBTQIA communities, the political question of choice is a loaded one. What makes it so is the hovering shadow of "Well, since you chose this, you brought all the consequences down upon yourself".

The classic example is sexual orientation. In a world where neither tolerant open-minded attitudes nor civil rights were fully extended to gay and lesbian people, some folks would say "well, you chose this lifestyle, and if you didn't want social condemnation, you shouldn't have made that choice".

Many people, when accused in a hostile and derogatory way of anything, are inclined to oppose the accusation, even when a longer contemplation of what they're being accused of might lead them to embrace it and oppose the judgmental attitude instead:


"Oh, here comes big brain genius"

"Goody two shoes, never did anything wrong!"

"Ha ha, you're a girl!"

"You pansy, you want a boyfriend to kiss, don'tcha?"

. . .

"I am not!!! You take that back!!!"




Hence, in response to being told that they don't deserve any social accommodation because they made a choice to pursue gay relationships and opportunities, the community embraced the position that "we were born this way, it's built in, we didn't choose this".


Neither side of that argument makes a lot of sense. I drank a glass of juice this morning. Did I choose to? Did I choose to be a person who enjoys the taste of juice? If I chose, was it a random choice or is there something in my nature that made that choice appealing? Is who I am -- my nature -- something separate from my will, my volition? If my choices aren't driven by who and how I am, then what is the "me" who is making choices?

And if I choose something that brings me pleasure and harms no one, by what logic do people get to lay it on me as my responsibility if society condemns my harmless choice and gets all hostile and violent towards me for embracing that pleasure? Saying that something is a choice I made doesn't excuse how society reacts to that choice, if society is irrationally unfair and intolerant. I'm left-handed, but I am capable of writing with my right hand -- it has muscles and nerves and bones and can hold a pen or pencil, and I can make it do the motions. Yet I choose to write with my left hand because it feels more natural to me. Who cares if it is built in or a choice that I made, if people call me offensive names and throw rotten food at me and lock me up or run me out of town just because they've decided people should not write with their left hand?

Look, hating people for pursuing their sexual and romantic pleasure with people of the same sex, and harassing them and being violent to them or denying them services that other people can get, that's immoral behavior. You don't get to pull this stunt of saying "but they chose to live as gay people". You think we can't figure out that homophobic bigotry is the immoral behavior and not gay dating?


So... homophobic bigots, huh? Did they choose to be hateful malicious antisocial creeps, or is it built in? I mean, not every heterosexual person behaves and thinks that way, so is there something in their nature that makes them more disposed to be like that? Suppose there were. Does that make it okay? "Oh, you can't condemn the homophobic haters, they were born that way". Like hell I can't. I can call them defective if they're born that way, because they're doing things that hurt people. I don't care how much of it is chosen and how much of it is innate, the point is, they cause harm and need to be prevented from doing so!


We've been using sexual orientation as Exhibit A for this discussion so far, but the debate on built-in versus choice has cropped up on the gender front, as you've probably noticed. The world is supposed to accept transgender people because they can't help it, there's a gene or something, it's built in, so transphobes need to adjust their attitude. Uh huh. Look, transphobes need to adjust their attitude because being hostile and judgmental towards transgender people is freaking immoral and wrong, and it doesn't become less so if Nancy over there chose to wear dresses and skirts and to change her pronouns, because it feels more natural to her, and not because a Magic Transgender Chromosome inside her head insisted that she transition.

I don't know how folks expect me to feel about this "built in gene" thing, as a genderqueer person. Does it make transgender people who seek a transition legitimate, and me not, since I am not a transitioner? Or shall I claim that there must be a built in genderqueer gene as well, one that doesn't tell your brain that you were supposed to inhabit a physical form different from the one to which you were born, but still leads you to identify with a different gender? What about genderfluid and agender types of genderqueer and nonbinary folks, do we all need our own separate causal gene, or do we share the one that we're told causes folks to be transgender?


Do you have any idea how many murderous ethnic cleansings have taken place where the people doing the genocides firmly believed that the people they were killing had a built in difference from them? A difference that they considered an innate inferiority? You think hateful bigots can't be hateful and bigoted towards people they perceive to have no choice in the matter of how they're different? You think racist people believe folks of other races chose those racial identities or something?



When I was in second and third grade, other kids (mostly boys) would hover around me and taunt me: "You sissy pansy, your name should be Alice, go play jump rope with the girls, why don't you?"

I know I was expected to stick my fists on my hips and get all angry and belligerent and deny the charges. But my reaction was more "Yeah, so? I like girls, what's wrong with you? Why do you boys have to be like this?"

Choice or nature, it was me asserting myself. Not letting them shame me.

Early lesson learned well. Don't let someone else's tone of voice and attitude shape what you view to be negative or positive. Don't just react. Think.



———————

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

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


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



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

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

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Gender Situation, Compared to Sexual Orientation — and Gaslighting

Lesbian Gay and Bisexual (1975) ---> LGBTQ (2010): Those of us with a variant / atypical gender identity became grouped with the people with a minority form of sexual orientation. Why? Well, in our culture, a person whose body is perceived to be male but whose observable behavioral characteristics are feminine will usually have been assumed to be gay, and treated as such -- homophobia definitely included.

So we've been regarded and treated in much the same way, and that gives us experiences in common. And reasons to join forces politically and socially, as an immediate consequence of that.




Generally speaking, if you're gay or lesbian, people understand that you are different, whether they perceive you as an oppressed minority, a standout spectacle against a backdrop of duller conventional people, an immoral pervert, or whatever. There's widespread agreement: you either have sex with people of the same sex, or you don't, and doing so marks you as different in a heterocentric and homophobic society.

If you're gay or lesbian (or even if you're bisexual), people rarely walk up to you after knowing this bit of information about you and say "Well, I really don't see why you insist on this notion that you're different".

Gender, on the other hand, is an identity. There isn't a specific behavior that, if you engage in it, definitely makes you this gender as opposed to that behavior.

When I was in graduate school, I wanted to do my dissertation on feminine male people, male people who identified as being more like women and girls than they were like other male people in general, and to delve into how they saw the world of heterosexual prospects and possibilities, non-hetero opportunities, and how they negotiated their sense of sexual self. But one of my sociology professors told me, "There's a problem with that. 'Considering yourself feminine' is something that takes place in a person's head. You can't operationalize it as an objective difference, it's just subjective. And then you want to interview them about what else they think and feel about sex and sexuality. It's all intercranial. That's not sociology. Now, you could focus on people who say 'Yes I wear a dress' or 'Yes I wear women's undergarments'. That is an objective behavior. You either do that thing or you don't".

But there's no behavior that I identify that makes us "us", that determines that this male person or that male person is femme.




One response I could make to this situation is to point out that it isn't so simple for gay and lesbian definitions after all. Sexual appetite isn't the same thing as sexual behavior. What about gay and lesbian virgins, who have never had sex? And while we're at it, what constitutes "same" versus "other" sex? We have intersex people in this world. If an intersex person becomes sexually involved with a person who isn't intersex, does that make them heterosexual, regardless of whether the partner is male or female? See, sexual orientation involves how people think of themselves too!

But my goal was not to undermine the identities of gay and lesbian people, but to deal with people telling me my gender identity is a figment of my imagination.

And yes, people do tell us that. It's a part of the experience of gender variant people, it's something we generally have to wade through a lot more than our gay and lesbian colleagues and allies. "Oh, so you think you're a woman because you like to attend the ballet? That doesn't make you a woman! Oh, you like to dance the ballet? So did Nureyev and Baryshnikov. Oh, but you want to dance ballet in a tutu? But it's just a sexist social convention that marks it as female apparel, that doesn't mean you're a woman if you wear it! Oh, but you cry at movies, you care more about cooperation and listening than you do about competition and risk-taking? Are you saying men can't be nurturant counselors or good communal hippies?"

And if we focus on the fact that other people throughout our lifetime have altercast us as being wrongly gendered for our sex, if we testify to a lifetime of being called butch or tomboy or sissy or whatever, "well, all guys get called that, it's part of razzing and hazing and we all go through it".


Gaslighting

The term originates in the systematic psychological manipulation of a victim by her husband in Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 stage play Gas Light,[6] and the film adaptations released in 1940 and 1944.[7] In the story, the husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes.



Unless you just climbed out of a dark cave after raised by wolves you know damn well that our world has gendered expectations. And that, no, we do not all get equal doses of being identified as variant, as sissy or butch.

We're in the position of begin tagged by others for this then being told it's all in our heads.



———————

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




———————


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

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


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



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

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To Oppose Patriarchy: It's Different For Men

My radical feminist colleagues sometimes wonder why, since I'm claiming to be one of them, I use so much of the rhetoric of the gender activists, especially laying claim to a gender other than "man" for myself.

It's not how they are doing feminism. They reject a bucketload of gendered assumptions, roles, stereotypes, etc that are projected onto women in this society, but they still identify as women. Why, they ask, am I not approaching the matter the way they do?

Oh, and before anyone on my gender boards asks why I concern myself with the views of transgender-exclusive people at all, let me clarify that this question comes up among radical feminist women who are not opposed to the recognition of transgender people -- they just don't see the act, or the fact, of being transgender as being a feminist behavior in and of itself. Any more than it's an anti-racist or a disabilities-rights act.



Overall, I think women are much better at realizing how the world appears from a male perspective, and knowing a lot of the particulars of male experience, than men tend to be about incorporating women's views. This is true because the male experience is amplified and projected, and because women's safety and survival has often depended on understanding men. But be all that as it may, this is one area where those parameters don't apply. I haven't found feminist women to have much understanding of how the feminism terrain looks when you're approaching it as a male person.

• For individual males, there is no significant movement of like-minded males for us to join. I can readily imagine Mary Daly observing that this is a bit like saying the courts should have been lenient and sympathetic with OJ Simpson at his murder trial because, after all, he just lost his wife. Nevertheless, I'm going to cycle back to this point in a minute.

• Power: it's patriarchy after all, and people tend to comprehend women rising up against it, even if they think they shouldn't, even if they think the different roles and spheres of the sexes (etc) is naturally or divinely ordained or whatever. It's less obvious to many people why any male person has a vested interest in dismantling patriarchy or opposing it. So our motives are unclear -- to people in general and specifically to the feminists with whom we might seek to ally ourselves. Will our endeavors still leave us in power? If so, then this male version of "feminism" looks like it's just a parlor game, some superficial gloss. Kind of like lip gloss, you could say.

• Ladies and Women and Men: I think it was either Robin Morgan or Gloria Steinem, relating the story of having a sit-down with a newspaper or magazine's editorial policy board, and explaining why they didn't like them referring to adult female people as "girls" when the equivalent males were always designated as "men".

"So what would you prefer? 'Ladies'?", the editor asked them.

"We practically held our noses and winced. No, definitely not that. That term was polluted with notions of screening out those who aren't ladylike, and notions of narrowly defined behaviors, all that 'act like a lady' crap, you know? 'WOMEN', we told him."

Women was a preferable term because it was inclusive and pretty much stripped down to the biological: one was a woman whether one was a homemaker, a politician, a police officer; a lesbian, an asexual person, a hetersexually active person; maiden, crone, or mom. The matter of including transgender women wasn't on the map at the time of this conversation, but at the moment it seemed like a pretty universal term that would unify all the people that feminists wanted to unify.

The word "Man" does not function as the male equivalent of "Woman", however much the dictionary may say otherwise. It correlates far more closely to the way that "Lady" is used. There is the notion that not all people with the male biological merchandise qualify as men. Instead there are those males who are men and then there are the ones that fall short of that. It's a status to which all members of the relevant sex are assumed to aspire, and success is not so rare that only an elite handful make the grade (although there's some social ambivalence about how many "real men" exist), so everyone is supposed to be caught up in trying to be recognized as one, or to pass as one.


• The Generic: Feminists have long pointed out that "man" is the generic sex in our society, that the male experience is falsely universalized as if it applied to everyone, and that whenever the generic human is posited, that human is automatically sexed as a man. One consequence of this is that feminists could push away the special marked status of being treated as a woman and demand to be regarded as a generic human, with human rights and human privileges (and get accused of trying to be men when they did). But a male person cannot reciprocally push away the gendered assumptions about male people by embracing the generic human, because as males we're already assumed to be the generic human AND because since the special attributes associated with female people are attached only to the special marked value of Woman, they don't get applied along with male-associated characteristics when a male person lays claim to a generic ungendered identity.



My second book, That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class, will be released later this year by Sunstone Press, and it describes my experience of setting out to be a women's studies major as a means of joining the feminists.

In the years that followed the period covered in that story, I shifted to the LGBTQIA platform, having already tried to speak as a participant in the feminist platform -- but found that it was not my platform to use. There was space for me to be a supporter, an ally, but not an activist in my own right, speaking for my own reasons and from my own interests and voicing my own political concerns.

Lacking a movement to join as a male person who'd been identified and treated as a non-masculine (i.e., sissy, femme, non-man) male, identity politics by its very nature lets me speak as me without having to speak "for all the guys". Other male people are welcome to join and say "me too" or they can remain Men if they feel correctly and accurately described by the generalizations and social notions thereof. I'm not telling them or the world at large that all of us male folks are unfairly and unpleasantly constrained by the pressures to be masculine and that we all want to be free of it. Instead, I'm establishing a proud and self-affirming identity as one male person who has chosen to embrace what I've been called, because that was my reaction from the start: "Yes, I am like one of the girls, and so? The girls are doing it right, they make sense to me and I don't want to be like you and the other boys!"



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

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


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



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

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

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comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth -- https://ahunter3.dreamwidth.org/77514.html#comments

Being Weaponized

"It's surprising to me that you aren't sure the trans community will accept gender queer people who don't transition", my friend writes in response to something I had posted. "Many such people do identify as trans and are active in the community, particularly in specifically non-binary spaces".


Yeah, let me explain and unpack that a bit.

Early this week, in another, very different space, someone else had posted something dismissive about trans people -- there was a photo of a bathroom door with all kinds of alternatives to the conventional male and female bathroom silhouettes along with the notice "We don't care, just don't pee on the seat" or something to that effect; the person posting it had then written a screed about how fragile and self-immersed and pathetic these kids these days are, etc.

So I wrote some descriptions of the shit I'd had to put up with from my classmates, the sissyphobia and homophobia and misogyny bundle, you know? What it had been like being harassed for being sissy and femme. And how since they had made an issue of it and acted like it was my secret shame, I damn well had the right to make an issue of it myself to say I was proud of my identity.

I got some likes and some supportive comments but I also got people saying that this shouldn't make it necessary to transition because I'm just as entitled to walk around in the body I was born in as those bullies were. So I explained that I am not a transitioner, that I don't present as female, that I identify as femme but also as physically male.

"Oh", they said. "Well, that makes more sense. But these pathetic people we're talking about, they don't do that. They have to change their name and their pronouns and put on a dress and tell us we have to accept their identity".

So these transphobes are seizing on nonbinary people like me who don't transition and using us as a weapon to attack our trans sisters and brothers.

That happens. It isn't rare. It's a thing.

Now, let's consider the kind of things I myself say. I'm not merely a genderqueer person who does not transition. I'm a loud and pushy genderqueer person who is tired of feeling erased so I make a lot of noise about having an identity that is different from the type of trans identities that comprise the main cultural narrative about being trans. I'm constantly mouthing off about not being a transitioner. I'm often challenging language used and generalizations made in transgender / genderqueer groups when it doesn't leave room for people who consider themselves women or femme but don't present as female.

My behavior reminds a lot of trans people of those transphobes. Because identities like mine have been weaponized against them. Used to attack the legitimacy of their identities.

We should not let them divide us that way. Those nasty creepazoids don't legitimately accept my identity. They use the word "just". As in "See, you can just be nonmasculine and still be male". They trivialize my experience and my identity. They will go on to say I don't have a separate gender identity, I'm just a man who likes to eat quiche and watch chick flicks or something. They plug their ears about how polarizing it is to be perceived as male but to be (and to be perceived as being) a person with the priorities and tastes, behaviors and attitudes that are expected of girls and women and not the ones associated with boys and men. They pretend they are fine with that as long as I don't transition and ask them to accept me as female. They pretend they aren't participating in the problem, that it wasn't them calling me names and exhibiting attitude and dropping insinuendos about what's wrong with me.

My trans sisters and brothers who transition are my kin. What works for me does not work for them. They have the right to be, to exist socially without being misgendered or condescended to. Nobody has any justification for questioning the route they have taken, which validates their identity and lets them stand proud. They need a supportive medical community and insurance coverage, they need to be allowed to pee without people questioning or challenging their gender identity, they need to be able to walk down the sidewalk in peace and in safety. And they need to not have identities like mine thrown in their faces like gender was some kind of One Size Fits All boutique and cisgender bigots are suddenly the fashion aribrators.

You do not have my consent to use me as a goddam weapon.


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

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


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



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

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Representation

"You must be so happy to see how far things have come since your own teenage years", people often say. "Back then, nobody was talking about being gender variant, it was all either you're gay or else you're straight. Now the kids are free to just be however they are and gender isn't an issue!"

Well, there's definitely been progress, but we haven't exactly Arrived yet.

Have you watched any movies lately or read any good novels that feature femmy males who fall in love with the female heroes of the storyline, and don't masculinize themselves to become heterosexually viable?

Who are the role models to whom a girlish, definitely non-masculine male would turn if they want to see an example, perhaps somebody to emulate?

I think there are more boxes now, but people still want to put you in one of the boxes, and I don't see a box that would fit me. Or would fit the person I was at fifteen, at nineteen, at thirteen.

• Portrayals of male people who are asexual or aren't sexually attracted and don't crave a romantic and sexual relationship would not be good models. I was, and at that age it was intense and complicating my life.

• Portrayals of male people who aren't uncomfortable with the assumptions and projections that people make about male people -- people expecting masculinity, expecting a set of priorities and behaviors that are associated with boys and men, especially sexual prorities and behaviors -- would not be good models. I had related to the girls, not the boys, all through elementary school. The whole 'boy thing' was foreign to me, something I wanted nothing to do with.

• Portrayals of male people whose sexual and romantic fascinations were for and towards other male people would not be good models. I had been taunted and harassed and threatened around the assumption that males who were feminine or acted in any way like one of the girls were gay and wanted male sexual attention. I didn't have those feelings, and existing cultural icons who were male, femmy, and gay didn't represent to me someone who was like me, because sexual orientation had been made an issue for me as a sissy femme person.

• Portrayals of trans gals who transitioned from being someone perceived as male to someone who presented as female were a mixed prospect as role models, because although it was a way of saying "see, being male doesn't keep this person from finding a valid identity as a feminine person", it also tended to underline the notion that the maleness was wrong. I didn't have dysphoria about my body and didn't want to be accepted and regarded as a girl or woman just like the others, as a cisgender woman in other words. I wanted the sexual attractions and romantic hungers I felt to be mutual, and since mine involved attraction for female people, to be mutual I would need to be with someone female who had a reciprocal appetite for someone who was male. If I presented as female and got involved with someone whose attraction was towards female folks, I was going to be a disappointment. Even if they were willing to settle for me because they were attracted to me as a person, I didn't want to be settled for; and I wasn't ashamed of my body and thought someone could find it cute and sexually appealing. I wasn't going to find someone who did if I was going around presenting as female.


The correct box isn't out there yet. Some kid who resembles the person I was as a teenager, coming along now, is going to be miscategorized as transgender, or as femme gay, or as generically nonbinary and asexual, for lack of a better box.

(And yeah, I can hear those of you who are just itching to say "People shouldn't be put in boxes, just be yourself, all this stereotyping is bad, think outside the box dude" and so forth. You are right but you are wrong. People wish to be understood. First-tier understanding tends to begin with generalizing, with categorizing folks and treating them as a typical member of that category. That is NOT a bad thing -- it's only bad when people don't move past that and learn the unique things about the specific person. It's only bad when they continue to treat the person as the box, as the stereotype. You get stereotyped by strangers, whether you realize it or not. It serves you well. You package yourself to be taken at first glance as something reasonable close to who you actually are. You don't know what it's like to not have that available to you unless you have had to live with no appropriate role or notion to wear as a default identity, no stereotype to play to as a starting point. You'd have a less dismissive take on these boxes if you had to walk around without one for a few years. In other words, you might want to check your privilege).



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

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


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



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

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Signalling and Signification

Let me describe a couple people from one of the support groups.

Kim wears dresses and skirts and puts on cosmetics just because he likes doing so. "Nothing should be regarded as gender atypical, really. That's my attitude".

Sky wears a skirt and puts on makeup precisely because it is gender atypical. Sky is nonbinary and wants to convey being more femme. So they're using this to send a visual signal. "Well, also, I feel more feminine when I'm dressed that way, so it's for me, too".

So last week someone posted a meme about how young male children should be supported if they want to wear a ballet tutu and carry a doll. Sky put a like on it and a reply saying we need to cheer when we see that. Kim said something similar and I gave it a thumbs up myself.

But inside my head I was thinking about saying to Sky: "But you do realize that if a ballet tutu is no longer off-limits or risque for males to wear, it loses some of its strength as a gender signal, right?"


Let's be blunt: the provocative nature of anything you own, its power as something that you wear that previously only some other gender ever wore, that impact all goes to hell once it is established that boys and girls alike can wear these things.

Putting on a pair of blue jeans when you're a female person doesn't establish you as a drag king and won't signal that you're butch. It could have a century ago, but now wearing pants doesn't carry a gender message.

If you need to be offset from the cisgender world, your ability to do so on the basis of what you wear is limited to the rigidities of the mainstream world. Think about it.



I am not quite like Sky but I'm not exactly like Kim either. I did start wearing skirts to send a social signal. Since early childhood, other people had outed me to myself and to their friends, pointing out that I was like a girl, that I wasn't normal for a boy, that I wasn't a real man. And it had been held out to me that I would never have a girlfriend or be sexually active with women because of this. They acted like they'd found my hidden secret, my great shame. So putting on the skirt was a way of saying "I'm not in hiding, I know who I am and I'm proud of it".

I do also wear them because they're more comfortable in the hot sticky summer weather and I like the way I look in them because I have great legs.



My friend and colleague Naki Ray, an intersex activist, is constantly reminding people "Please, stop conflating sex with gender or sex traits with gender identity!" It's an important distinction for me, too. There's definitely a difference, for me, between being perceived as femme and being perceived as female. Whereas Sky wants to go forth into the world being neither regarded as male nor as female, I am definitely male. It was my personality characteristics and my behaviors and my whole way of being in the world that caused the other kids to regard me as being like a girl. But they would not have had reason to single me out and harass me for being like a girl if I had not been male. That is who I am and that is who I get to be proud of being, a male person who is like this, who is in the world this way and not the masculine boyish way expected of me.

Kim would be happy to wake up in a world where there is absolutely nothing remaining that signals gender to anyone. Where gender is dead. Where there isn't a single notion about what male people do or wear or act like, as opposed to how female people do those things, or intersex folks for that matter. It would be a world where there are no nonbinary people. No butch people. No femme people. No boys, no girls, no men, no women. There might still be classifications by sex -- people might notice whether you have a conventional male body structure or a classic female body structure or something else. This might seem regressive to trans people who have fought hard to split identity away from what you've got inside your underpants, but remember, people would not associate it with anything else, either. This would be a society that would not regard you any differently no matter what your sexual morphology. Kim would regard this as the ideal world.

Would I? It's complicated. My identity is embedded in my history. I didn't grow up in that kind of world. Our internal identities take the form "I am the person who...", don't they? Well, I am the person who was seen as a male who acted and behaved and apparently thought like one of the girls. I like to think I am doing things that move us towards Kim's ideal world, but if you plucked me up and dropped me into it tomorrow morning? No one in such a world would understand easily what I had been up against during my lifetime. Not that many people grasp that in today's world, to be fair -- you seen any movies lately or read any good novels featuring femmy males who fall in love with the female heroes of the storyline and don't masculinize themselves to become heterosexually viable?


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

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


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



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

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

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Index of all Blog Posts
comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth -- https://ahunter3.dreamwidth.org/76570.html#comments