A note about The Deviated Norm

This here is a low traffic blog on topics close to my heart. As such, comments and engagement on old posts are always welcome and will be responded to. Except! for comments on old posts telling me to lighten up, not take things so seriously, or let things go, 'cause that shit's just plain ironic. Those comments will get a suggestion to visit Derailing for Dummies.

Friday, March 27, 2009

"On the Verge of An Affair" (Why Redbook can kiss my furry ass)

What the fuck? (All emphasis mine)

So... despite any obvious signs of cheating in your so-called friendship, ask yourself: Are you having an emotional affair?

You've Probably Crossed the Line if You...
1. Touch your male friend in "legal" ways, like picking lint off his blazer.
2. Pay extra attention to how you look before you see him.
3. Think crush-like thoughts like
"He'd love this song!"
4. Tell him more details about your day than you do your partner.
5. No longer feel comfortable telling your mate about this person and begin to cover up your relationship.
6. Experience increasing sensual tension; you admit your attraction to him but also insist to yourself that you would never act on it.

It's About to Get Physical When You...
[7]. Find yourself feeling vulnerable and turn to the other man for support rather than to your mate or a trusted relative or girlfriend.
[8]. Accelerate the level of intimacy through sensual or suggestive talk over email or the phone.
[9]. Put yourself in a situation where the two of you could be alone.

You Can Avoid the Potential Affair if You...
[10]. Stay honest with your partner. Share with him all your hopes, triumphs, and failures -- as well as your attractions and temptations, which will help keep you from acting on them.
[11]. Make time for just the two of you on a regular basis -- away from the kids, your friends, and family.
[12]. Surround yourself with happy couples who don't believe in fooling around. Having positive, emotionally connected role models will help you stay on track.

I believe we have found the mother lode folks! But let's start at the top and work our way down.

1. So if you touch a guy in a "legal" way that means it's crossing a line. I suppose touching him in an "illegal way" means that you're not? No? Oh. So you mean that the "legal" in that sentence was to indicate that this is ostensibly allowable while in a relationship?
So basically this one should read: if you ever have physical contact with a man other than the one you are officially connected to, you're crossing the line. Thanks for the heads up!
2. I love this. See, this is directed at (straight, because all people are straight) women. Never mind that women are constantly told in our culture that they should pay attention to how they look. See, they said "extra" attention. You can tell it's "extra" because it's "crossing the line"! and you can tell it's "crossing the line" because you're paying "extra" attention! LOVE IT.
3. For realz???? Thinking that someone would like a song is a "crush-like" thought? Damn. I always thought "wouldn't it be cool if he liked me" was a crush-like thought. Righto.
Now off to formally retract every time I suggested a book, movie, song, television show, author, comedian, or performer to someone else (not to mention food! oh god, the formerly happy couples I may have ruined!!!!). Guess I'd better get going since that's a WHOLE LOT of people that I've apparently had crushes on who need to be informed of my cheating, cheating ways.
4. I don't even know what to say to this. Half of what you see on television implies that men are supposed to not give a fuck about the daily lives of their (female) partners.
5. When did "mate" become synonymous with "partner"? I see "mate" and I think: animals. Animals mate. Humans don't really "mate".
Plus, now we're just being confusing to non U.S. readers, since "mate" in the UK (I don't know about elsewhere) means friend.
6. Now the reader isn't allowed to have a libido. Great. I wonder, wouldn't the writer consider it appropriate/"normal" to have a crush on Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Jude Law, some other famous heartthrob? But I guess only if you don't know them, eh?

7. Ok. Fuck you. Officially. Basically we have just erased every lesbian in the world. A) I hate this "girlfriends" crap when talking about straight women. They're called friends. Apparently oftentimes they are girls, because if they aren't (and are instead sometimes boys) you're going to get hit over the head with how you're a BAD girlfriend (because being friends with a boy is impossible.... don't you know all men want is to have sex with every woman around them????). B) When did it become acceptable to have RADICALLY different meanings for words when said by women versus men. If I say 'fish sticks", I mean a breaded fish product made into a "stick" shape, if a cisgendered person says "fish stick" I assume they mean the same thing, not, oh "broccoli quiche". So when I say "girlfriend", I mean a person who I'm dating who identifies as a woman who I like to kiss, and maybe even have sex with. Not, oh, "someone who is absolutely no threat to my boyfriend because they don't even register as a sexual person to me". Those definitions are mutually exclusive. GAH.
This is always extra frustrating because when I hear a straight woman say that, I am suddenly overcome with confusion. Oh my, I assumed she was straight (I'm such a jerk to assume she was straight, I should know that assuming only butch looking women are queer erases femininity and femmes and is totally not ok), oh wow! she's out and poly, that's awesome. Oh wait. She was just talking about "quiche," silly me, thinking she meant the word she actually said.
9. Clearly it is always the woman's responsibility to make sure that she never strays, or is in a compromising position. Didn't you know? Hey.... you know, if you stay late at work you could be alone with someone else at work. Holy SHIT. I guess I better get my ass out of here at 5 everyday. I love this. Not even "avoid being alone" but "avoid the POSSIBILITY of being alone". Ok, I lied. I hate this.

10. This is the same as 4. Teach women that they should never have any secrets from their partners, that they should constantly talk to their partners about everything they feel and think and do, and then on the other hand, teach men that they should be as uninterested as possible in what women feel and think and do. Great. I'll put it on my to do list: irreparably damage my relationship(s) by having unrealistic expectations for myself and partner(s). CHECK!
12. Surround yourself with happy couples who don't believe in fooling around. Having positive, emotionally connected role models will help you stay on track.
Do I have to say more? don't be friends with single people, don't be friends with poly people, you clearly are so incompetent that you can't figure out if your relationship is working so try to just stay out of trouble by being friends with the "right crowd". (Oh and don't be friends with lesbians because then your "girlfriends" will be a threat to your virile virile boyfriends)

Anyone else notice that this is for women? And SURPRISE! so are articles about how to spot a cheating partner. So women should be constantly vigilant that THEY never cheat, and should be constantly vigilant that their (male) PARTNERS never cheat. yeparoo. Women are the sole bastions of responsibility in relationships.

So: disrespect of women, disrespect of men, erasure of lesbians, disrespect of single people, outright disgust with poly people, am I missing something?

And people wonder why I hate pop. culture.

PS. For a super interesting read about the ways that single people are Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After I suggest you check out the forementioned book by Bella DePaulo.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I Just Came OUT

At work. As an atheist. To one of the patrons/residents here at my lovely work.

It wasn't something I was planning on doing. In fact, just about every identity I claim here on this blog/in my everyday life* is something that I generally have made an effort to not talk about. I work really hard to educate the people who come in (generally try to call them on their -isms, throw them out for using slurs, discuss with them why various things might be hurtful, etc.) but I don't believe that I'll get any more mileage from my educating by outing myself constantly.

But. It had to happen.

A) I hate sneezing. I find it uncomfortable and confusing. I don't like the build up, and I don't like the release. After sneezing, I want to pretend that it never happened. Fine, I'm a freak. Sue me. B) this means any type of post sneeze traditional phrase is not particularly exciting for me C) I'm an atheist so "god bless you" is a useless/frustrating phrase to me, even when it's a reflex. D) There is a guy who comes in every day, and EVERY time I sneeze, he feels compelled to say "god bless you" [EDIT:] as though he's a Catholic priest, I mean a real "God Bless You" /[EDIT:] E) he also feels compelled to act as though he is sprinkling/throwing holy water on me whenever he does this. [EDIT:] multiple times, like a little ritual /[EDIT:] F) MAYBE this was funny the first time he ever did it, but it isn't any more. G) (you like the little list thing? yeah, I don't know why I'm doing it either)

Anyway. Today I sneezed. This is probably the 20th time I've sneezed at work since I started working here (I just pulled that number out of my ass). I've been getting the creepy holy water treatment for weeks. Today he did it again. Apparently the 20th time is one too many. Read below to see how I utterly offended him. Not for the faint of heart!!!!!

"Hey, though I appreciate the sentiment, it actually sort of makes me uncomfortable when you say 'god bless you' like that. I'm an atheist" (I know! I'm surprised he didn't have heart palpitations from how rude and shocking it was!)

"I guess we'll never be friends."

"Huh? We'll never be friends?" (originally I thought he said "we'll never be MORE than friends"...)

"Yeah. I was born Catholic, but now I'm a born again Christian, I'm looking for a seventh day church these days"

HOLY SHIT. (haha...yes atheists do indeed say things like this)
You can't be friends with me because I don't want you fake sprinkling holy water on me? What the poop! I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it wasn't the "don't sprinkle" part, but the atheist part. Or perhaps just the "not the right type of believer" part.

This is the privilege of being a Christian (in the U.S.). So infrequently being confronted with someone not believing like you that you can pretend we don't exist. So infrequently being confronted with someone not believing that you assume everyone you meet is like you. So infrequently being confronted by non-believers that you can become offended when someone doesn't want you doing little fake holy rites over them. So infrequently being surrounded by non-believers that you can pick and choose whether you want to continue any type of pleasant association with someone based on whether they agree with your beliefs.

As my sister would say: whatevs....

*interacting with people who DON'T have anything to do with whether I can afford to eat or not

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spy vs. Spy (Or What I Don't Get About Straight Culture)

According to my local Metro (emphasis mine):
"That '70s Show" star Danny Masterson has asked his girlfriend of four years, Bijou Phillips, to marry him-- and she said yes, Hollyscoop reports. The couple met at a celebrity poker tournament in Las Vegas, where Phillips was initially attracted to his disinterest in her. "Every guy at the table was flirting with me but Danny. He wasn't laughing at my jokes," Phillips told Paper magazine.

Ok. So.

Could someone explain this to me? No wait, scratch that.

What is up with (you) straight people?

What's with this weird little culture of antagonism that straight people seem to have set up? What's with the spy vs. spy crap?

So this is how it went? Boy meets girl, girl notices boy doesn't seem interested in girl, girl... pursues boy? boy becomes interested in girl? boy now pursues girl? boy and girl spend 4 years together, boy proposes to girl?

Seriously? Ok, somewhere in there, there HAD to have been lying. Either he wasn’t interested or he PRETENDED to be not interested. Lady, you’re attracted to someone that you know either finds your jokes tedious, or has a history of pretending things that aren’t true/misleading you? This seems like a recipe for fucking disaster.

More probably it was: boy meets girl, boy pretends to not be interested because he knows that in straight culture showing interest is a sure way to fail, girl therefore pursues boy (thus falling for his devious plan), boy (when the time is right) deviously hooks girl, boy and girl spend 4 years together, boy proposes to girl.

When I started dating Bluejay, I got a bad case of NRE (New Relationship Energy). I wanted to call Bluejay all the time, I wanted to see Bluejay (all the time), I just basically was a little Bluejay obsessed. So I did. My straight roommate thought I was out of my mind. Apparently, if a guy called HER every day, she'd think he was desperate. She admitted it was a game, but said that if a guy didn’t want to play, it meant he wasn’t really interested….
Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? So, if a guy shows interest in you, then that means he’s not really interested, because if he WAS, then he’d pretend to be not interested in you? Where does that leave guys who just genuinely don’t like you? Does that mean that to make sure you never start liking them, they have to constantly pursue you? Seems a little counter intuitive.

Ok. So girls know it's a game, boys seem to either know or just have learned how to play instinctively... So revision of the story.

Boy meets girl, boy pretends to not be interested because he knows that if he does girl will reject him, girl therefore knows that he is actually interested since he went to the trouble of pretending to be NOT interested and thus pursues him, boy (now knowing that the game has been successfully started) starts pursuing girl, boy and girl then spend four years actually learning about the other since their initial courtship merely indicates their understanding of the rules of the game/their interest, boy asks girl to marry him.

This is becoming a full blown paragraph!

If it was my story (on their timeline) it'd be this: boy meets genderqueer, boy and genderqueer pursue each other, boy and genderqueer spend 4 years together, boy and genderqueer get married.
(I'd like to point out that "genderqueer" has WAY more letters than "girl" and yet my story is still shorter than the original).

Personally, I like less stress. I like knowing what the fuck is going on, and not having to figure it out by finding all the pieces of paper, glueing them together, holding them over a candle, hoping the lemon juice trick still works (and that I didn't glue any pieces on wrong side out), holding the paper up to a mirror to see the backwards writing, and then translating from Aramaic! I like knowing that when someone seems interested, they ARE interested, and the way to know if they aren't interested is obvious (they don't call, they don't seem excited to see you, they don't laugh at your jokes).
Hell! I like having people laugh at my jokes. Even if they aren't flirting with me. Even if they in general find me as unattractive as I find dumpsters and fire hydrants. Maybe it's an ego thing, but I think I'm pretty gosh dern funny, and I don't want to be around a whole lot of people who don't agree. I think it'd hurt my feelings.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It makes me feel ill...

When I started this blog, I assumed that I would primarily write about the communities that I'm a part of. It felt presumptive to try to write about racism, able-bodiedism, and classism (if I'm forgetting any, I'm of course sorry, but more importantly would like to hear about it). Though I try to be an ally to these communities, I never want to put myself out there as being able to speak for them.

But I'm sick of this. I'm sick of reading about an unarmed, black, 73-year-old-cancer-surivor shot dead by police (in Louisiana). And I'm sick of this: Police in Tenaha, Texas pulling over black drivers in order to extort money, jewelry, cars, cellphones, and anything that looks valuable, from them. I'm sick of black men being shot in the back while handcuffed and on the ground (in California). *

But more than I'm sick about reading about these things, I'm sick of only reading about them on one blog, only hearing about them for a day in the news (if at all). I'm sick of knowing that 1 in 3 missing/kidnapped children are black, but the media reports on them only a fifth of the time (Missing Children in the News).

It was a mistake to not make a commitment to blog about the discrimination that other communities face. It was a mistake that I am going to try to rectify from here on out.** I cannot and will not speak for others, but I can try to draw attention to oppression as it happens around me. Please, if you have a blog, friends, family, a zine, or really any way to communicate with others, Let Them Know what is happening.

*Please go to Pam's House Blend for the complete Louisiana article and story. No seriously, go. And go here for the Texas article. And here for the California article.

**In that vein, please, please, send me suggestions for blogs. At the moment, my regular blog list is primarily composed of blogs devoted to atheism, queer communities, feminism, and one or two about racial privilege.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sexuality and Gender: Or How I Knew I Was a Guy

I had my first crush (on a boy) in 2nd grade, my first crush (on a girl) in 9th grade. I identified (in chronological order) as: (straight, only not really, it's just most people's default unless they realize otherwise), straight, straight-and-I-didn't-say-that-girl-was-hot-I-don't-know-what-you're-talking-about, bi, wishing-I-was-a-lesbian-but-too-bad-guys'-wrists-are-so-damn-hot, asexual, lesbian, lesbian-and-fuck-you-if-I-have-a-boyfriend, a dyke, piesexual (no, it's not what you think), and finally (today) queer.

For as long as I can remember, (after realizing I liked girls), I felt supremely uncomfortable about my attraction to guys.* It didn't make sense. I'd read Dykes to Watch Out For and feel kinship with the characters, but then wonder what to do about the fact that men's torsos held so much sway over me. Sometimes I'd rationalize it away thinking: oh, I just wish I looked more like them, it'd be nice to not have these breasts.

But not once (until college) did this thought translate into: hey! I wish I didn't have this (female) body! Maybe I'm not a girl!
Not quite sure how the connection was missed, but indeed it was.

Early at college I struggled a bit with seeing trans and genderqueer folks on campus and finding them hot and wishing I looked like them, but assumed it was simply my own lookism/wish to be skinny (and thus able to look so effortlessly androgynous) and not an actual desire to be perceived as anything other than female. And so I continued as I was.

Later, I started (very casually) seeing a man. It totally fucked with my head. We weren't even dating, but still I hated thinking that everywhere we went, people who looked at us thought we were in a straight relationship. I knew that my non-hetero identity was instantly erased because we were: boy + girl. It wasn't just how other people saw us, it was how I saw us as well. Seemingly overnight, I stopped feeling aggressive and powerful and sexy, and started worrying if I was calling too much, not enough, did I sound desperate, why hadn't he called me back, and lastly, How the fuck did you work that thing? As a girl, in relation to a guy, I had NO CLUE what to do. I spent a whole lot of time trying to justify to myself (and my friends, unneeded though it was) how I could be dating, I mean "officially not dating", a guy.

We broke up, I mean "officially stopped officially not dating". A year later I came out to myself. (These are not nearly so related as it may sound).

When my mom asked me why I couldn't just be a butch lesbian, my answer was twofold: I'm not butch, and I like guys.

'Cause you know what, I DO like guys, I like guys in the queerest fucking way I know how. I like guys in such a gay, gay, way, that .... that I'm surprised rainbows don't pop out my ass. I like guys, not like a girl likes guys (which, for the record, is any way that a girl who likes a guy, likes guys) but like a guy likes guys. 'Cause I'm a guy. Got it?

For years I hated myself for liking men. I couldn't do a damned thing about it, but it was constantly there. Taunting me. It made no sense, to everyone else my desire for guys was perfectly normal. But to me, it felt like some fundamental betrayal of myself. Nothing I did or felt, was right. The second I came out as a guy: *POOF* Queer as a three-sided square, and felt like it was the truth for the first time.

So yeah, my gender isn't my sexuality. But when I finally figured out the one, the other just slipped right into place. These days, as a queer genderqueer trans guy (who likes who I like, without regard to their gender), I feel aggressive and powerful and (mostly) sexy, and I never worry about whether I call too much, sound too desperate, or whether I know how to work that thing.

*When I had a boyfriend (in High School) who had a beard, I tried to think of it as training for pubic hair on girls.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Too Angry to Blog

I can barely think right now, I'm so angry. My partner's EX (huge emphasis on ex) roommates are threatening to take him to court. Because they want him to have to pay for their current (in no way something that he used) gas bills. (long story short). Dumbest part is that THEY CAN'T (perhaps I should say: Shouldn't be able to) EVEN GET HER DAMN MONEY. Since she doesn't make enough for the court to allow them to seize it. Additionally (connected to the trans theme of the blog), now that they are threatening him, they are putting his name in quotation marks!!! See.... his legal name is "Sarah Smith" and the actual name he uses to all friends and acquaintences is "Bluejay Smith"*. As soon as they started this bullshit, out come the: Dear Sarah "Bluejay" Smith emails.....

Fuck you. Someone's identity (gender or otherwise) is not a weapon you get to use against them just because you're pissed. This just shows you have been an asshole, and hiding your prejudice the entire time. It gives you NO points in an argument, and in any decent society, should actually lose you some.

The same damn thing happened just a couple weeks ago also. One of my roommates was pissed at the other (who is trans). In the middle of her tirade about the other, she used the wrong pronoun. I had to stop her and say: it's not ok to refuse to acknowledge someone's gender identity just 'cause you're pissed at them. She stopped, but answered: "whatever". I still don't think she got it. I will never again think that she respects my gender, since apparently it's something she thinks she can SHUCK at will, if the person she's angry at is trans.

What. The. Fuck!?

What memo did I miss saying it was "asshole (ex)roommate month"? Seriously. If I'd known, I would have at least been forewarned. And you know what they say: Forewarned is forearmed....

Because I sure need extra ulnas and radii!!!

Seriously. If you know of any way to get some legal advice (my partner, even though he's low income, isn't covered by legal aid because of being partially supported by parents), I'd appreciate it a whole hell of a lot.

*names changed to protect the horribly wronged. Also, No I have not messed up my partner's pronouns by changing them up in the middle of the post. Get used to it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Privilege of Recognition

"Passing" is a pretty big concept in the trans (and gay, and many others) community. Seriously, it's like, kind of a big deal. Some people really want to, others don't, some think that the word has a lot of fucked up meaning (for instance: implying there is a deception going on) and other don't.

There is the privilege of passing, and there is the privilege that allows passing. Both of these are frustrating to be on the other side of.

I use the word because a) it IS a common word, and b) it's less unwieldy than some longer phrases*. Also I use "passing" to indicate being perceived as the appropriate gender, and thus use it to talk also about the way that cisgendered** people operate in the world.

If you've never been inappropriately gendered by someone (assumed to be the wrong gender) then you've had the privilege of passing your whole life. Part of the "privilege" of that situation is the fact that you can not even notice when you invoke it. One generally only notices when other people don't pass. We hardly notice when people do (that's the whole point, it's invisible!)

Equally frustrating, from a class stand point is the fact that passing itself is a function of privilege. A lot of what facilitates passing is money. Money and time. Money for new clothes, new haircuts, surgeries, hormones, voice lessons, name change forms, etc.

But all of this is tangential to what I wanted to get to. The fact is, in the trans community I interact with most, these are already understood on some level and discussed. I want to talk about something else, what I think of as the privilege of recognition.

I really enjoyed Julia Serano's book, it gave me a lot of really exciting and challenging things to think through. A whole shit-ton having to do with the way that masculinity is privileged in our society, and how masculine/male identified trans individuals are given a whole hell of a lot of privilege within the queer/trans community that is TOTALLY UNFAIR (ok, I know that's the whole "privilege" schtick!) just because we in line with our misogynistic society's standards for what is supposed to be admired. And especially how, as a feminist and a trans guy, I need to start being way more aware of the ways that my actions/community/lack of action may be exclusionary for trans women.

But Whipping Girl also gave me a couple: "you're overlooking things" moments. As I've mentioned before, I don't pass. When people look at me or talk to me, they invariably gender me as female. Part of the privilege of passing is that I, as a non-passing trans guy feel like I need to justify other people's inability to accurately assess my gender. As if it's my fault. I don't pass for a variety of reasons: a) I'm a very femme-y guy (this will be a whole post unto itself someday soon), b) I have a large chest, c) I am not taking hormones, probably a whole bunch I don't even think to think of ('cause it ain't my job to folks!). But one thing that I DO is wear entirely men's clothing.

In case you're wondering, clothing does JACK SHIT for a trans man (at least in the experience of this trans man). As Ms. Serano points out, feminism has made it possible for women to wear items that traditionally were reserved exclusively for men. So when I, as a trans guy, walk down the street, I'm just one more female bodied person wearing pants. Which is where the privilege of recognition comes in. There is not a day that goes by that I didn't wish that people who looked at me could/would ascertain what gender I was attemping to be seen as. Which is different from passing. Right now, I could give a rat's ass if people who looked at me thought I was a boy. What I long for is for them to at least recognize that I don't see myself as a girl. In fact, as a genderqueer who never wants to be unequivocably gendered male, by (one day, maybe) being gendered male, I won't be "passing". Either I, or society will have overshot the damn mark.

So I'm extraordinarily aware of a privilege that I believe often doesn't affect trans men, and often does affect trans women. It's a symptom of the fucked up misogyny in our society, and it's that trans women wearing women's clothing have a much higher percentage chance of being recognized as gendering themselves female/not gendering themselves male. Regardless of if they pass.

If they don't pass, this puts them in danger. It makes them highly visible. It's perhaps weird and fucked up that I think of this as a privilege. But this is the thing: I would RATHER be stared at and worried about my safety than constantly aware that not one person on the street even realizes that my self-identity is not female. This constant awareness has been wearing away at me as long as I can remember**. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it'd be much worse to be stared at and worried about whether I was in danger.
But... just like when trans activists ask cisgendered crowds whether they'd give up their gender for some amount of money, my roommate (a trans woman) has said she'd rather die than have everyone passing her on the street assume that she sees herself as a man.

Maybe I'm just mistaken about what "passing" means. But I don't think so. I think there is a distinct privilege in knowing that you are indicating to society what you mean to, even if society is an ass and refuses to agree with your assessment of yourself.

Since nothing I will do will be "male enough" until I actually am perceived as exclusively male, "recognition" is going to be a process that I can only approach from one side (supposed maleness). I can't sneak up on having my gender identity perceived from where I am now. That frustrates me. Maybe I'll start wearing a giant pin that just says: "I'm not a girl" or "Trans GUY".

Anyone got a giant pin making machine?

*That said, I'm hardly uniform in my use of it. So if I start using other phrases, tough ganoogies.
**Everyone is born, but someone who is cisgendered is someone who is: born, gendered at birth, raised in that gender, and throughout their life feels comfortable in that same gender. Born, raised, happy (or if not happy, at home).
Whereas someone who is transgendered is: born, gendered at birth, partially (or fully) raised in that gender, and starting at some point (or throughout) their life feels EXTREME discomfort with that erroneously assigned gender.
***There are whole months of my life (post coming-out) that I've lost; too upset at knowing that if I went out I would be not only gendered incorrectly, but not even recognized as trying to gender myself differently, and therefore stayed in my apartment, and on bad days, not even leaving my bedroom.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Women's Clothes

One of the major reasons I finally got off my butt to start this blog was wanting to explore some of the ideas in a book I've been reading, Whipping Girl: A Transexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano.

Towards the end Ms. Serano makes a point about how we view masculinity as "normal" and femininity as "unnatural", saying: "[t]hose feminists who single out women's dress shoes, clothing, and hairstyles to artificialize necessarily leave unchallenged the notion that their masculine counterparts are 'natural' and 'practical'" (339).

Which got me to thinking. About how in the current (U.S. based) society, humans are one of the few species in which the plumage of the male is so much less impressive than the female. Take this

He is one of the "best dressed" according to the Yahoo or something. Impressively stylish, yes? What a powerful figure he makes (or some such gobbledy gook). Gosh, he's so... so.... well dressed.

Ok. Now to look at a "best dressed" woman (same source). Wow, she sure pops off the page, yes? If the two of them were in the same picture, I sure know who MY eye would tend towards.

"But" you say, "she's in bright colors! How could he possibly hope to compete with such a stunning example of neon color!!!"

Ok, you probably don't say that. You probably realize that I am setting you up. Perhaps your eye has even strayed to my next image (oh, to be able to keep this second image hidden until the appropriate time! what fun it would be!) .

Look here! A woman, dressed all in black and white! And she too is so much more vivid a figure.

Ok, seriously, snark aside: women clearly get more exciting clothes. Frankly, even though I'm very very VERY happy in my dull grey pin-stripes and my dark/somber button up shirts, sometimes I look at my female roommate, in her vivid turquoise and her exciting shapes and sigh in envy. I mean LOOK at them. Women's clothes say something. They say: "I have a dead swan draped over my neck" (it they are Bjork) or "I am VERY shiny and pink" (if they are our first female example). Not just famous people either. My roommate seriously has fashion options far surpassing mine (and not just because I don't shop).

My glib summary of fashion is this: men get pockets, women get pizzazz!! (with two Z's and two exclamation marks). Isn't it strange that the male of the species doesn't look as POWERFUL as they supposedly are?

I want to do a little thought experiment. Think of every type of clothing, shoe, accessory and make up that we have (you started only thinking of women's clothing, didn't you?). Now try to think of them, as what they can be: ways to draw attention to yourself. Can you think of a way to make lipstick be not a "feminine" thing but just a decoration? How about eyeshadow? Metal bits with sparkly stones?

When I squint my mental eyes, I can see these things as what they truly are, not just what meanings we've given to all of them.

To go back to Ms. Serano's point: If clothing is meant to be a way to distinguish one's self (which I believe it is) how "practical" can it be to have men's clothing so incredibly BORING? And it seems pretty "artificial" that we look at the bright colors in women's clothing and don't immediately connect that to the natural world (butterflies, dart poison frogs, flowers, birds, take your pick). Basically I'd like to see a day where (more) men could feel comfortable wearing bright colors. And also a world where women's clothes had pockets. (I never got why they seemingly couldn't put pockets in a skirt).

I'm going to end with Julia Serano's "Barrette Manifesto" which is wickedly funny. But more importantly, it's also wickedly true. Which is why even though this post is long enough, it needs to be here*.

Barrette Manifesto
Hey girls, did you hear the news? It's just been scientifically proven that barrettes are dangerous! So are bracelets and bric-a-brac. It's a fact. And don't be fooled by thick-necked macho men who pretend that "girl stuff" is boring or frivolous, because that's just an act. Because as soon as you ask that guy to hold your purse for a minute, he will start to squirm, as if your handbag were full of worms, as he holds it as far away from his rugged body as possible. Because "girl stuff" is made with the gender equivalent of Kryptonite!
That's right, just watch fathers in Sanrio stores standing like petrified trees, like deer caught in Hello Kitty headlights. Or teenage boys buying their girlfriends flowers, acting as disinterested as possible as they ask the florist for a dozen "whatever"s. That's why they always buy roses, that's why engagement rings are always diamonds. These things are not romantic, they are just cliches-the only types of flowers and jewelry that most men will admit to knowing the names of. And god forbid you were to ask your husband to pick you up a box of tampons. (And men, it's true, the cashier really does think you're buying them for yourselves.)
"Girl stuff" is dangerous, and I should know because I'm a secret double agent. See, I lived as a boy for most of my life and I have insider information straight out of men's locker rooms and college dorms. Hell, I even went to a bachelor party once, so I know this stuff firsthand. And I have a battle plan for absolute sexual equality, but you have to trust me on this. See, feminists have made it okay for girls to explore what used to be an exclusively boy world. But true equality won't come until boys learn to embrace girl stuff as well.
So here's the deal: If you want your boyfriend to treat you with respect, then tell him that you won't sleep with him until he starts putting barrettes in his hair. And I'm not talking about secret bedroom kinky shit. Make him wear them to work! The next time he buys a pair of shoes, make sure they're Mary Janes (and don't forget the white lacy anklets to go with them). Because as soon as he realizes the pure bliss of wearing a frilly, pink, poofy, party dress, maybe he'll finally relax a bit and loosen up that uptight male swagger. And maybe one he lets his guard down, he'll look around and realize that the world doesn't revolve around him.
You may think this is funny, but it's no joke. "Girl stuff" is dangerous, so let's use it to our advantage. We truly can change the world! Because if construction workers were man enough to wear skirts and heels, they wouldn't whistle at women who walk by. And if misogynistic rockers and rappers were man enough toe cry while watching tearjerkers, they wouldn't need to masturbate all over the mic. And if presidents and generals were man enough to wear lip gloss and mascara, they wouldn't have to prove their penis size by going to war all the time. Because male pride is not really about pride. It's about fear--the fear of being seen as feminine. And that's why "girl stuff" is so dangerous. And as long as most men remain deathly afraid of it, they'll continue to take it out on the rest of us.

*all typos are entirely mine

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Passing Online, Passing in Person

I have to get a shameful secret out of the way. I know this might come as a shock. Perhaps even a surprise, but....

I am a feminist.

Have you had a chance to pick your jaw up off the floor? Ok good. Now that my non-revelation is done with, I can commence with the actual post.

One of the frustrating facts of my life is that I don't pass. Not only do I not pass, I don't cause confusion for people, even for a second. Seriously. The name I go by is a male name (obscure though it apparently is), and I can't even count the number of times I've had someone say: "Oh, that's so pretty". Once a guy looked it up online, found out that it was biblical in origin, presumably saw the little tag next to it saying that it was a male name, and still later came up to me and said: "it's Hebrew, I mean biblical right? It's really pretty, maybe if I ever have another daughter I'll name her that".
It's gotten to the point that I think that if I told people my name was Bob they'd say: "oh, that's really beautiful, is it short for Roberta? (perhaps I'll name MY daughter that)"

So that means that it should be a relief to me to be able to go on the internet, where people aren't looking at my non-masculine body, or listening to my too-affable-to-be-a-guy vocal patterns, or watching my femme-y mannerisms, and have people just judge me based on my name and my (genius) commentary on (fill in the blank).

Except for when it sort of sucks. When I want to post a comment about something that a (female identified) feminist has said, that I disagree with. Because then I run into all sorts of self-imposed confusion. This happened to me twice in the past week.

One of those times, it really didn't matter. I read a lot of (internet) comics, and one that I have recently added to my daily rollcall is Planet Karen (a diary of a UK goth gal). One of the commenters on the forum complained that the artist wasn't feminist enough in her comic*. I disagreed, but didn't say anything because some of Karen's fans already did a fairly good job responding to the comment.

However, I still haven't written the comment that I so desperately want to write regarding the blog post The Porn Industry is Ready to Exploit Nadaya Suleman in part because I am concerned that my legitimacy ("cred" if you will) as a feminist will be questioned because of my name.

See, I take being an ally fairly seriously (or I like to think I do). If a person of color points out something racist to me, I file it away as useful ally information. And if my privilege of being able-bodied is something I overlook (which I'm sure I often do), and someone calls me on it, I try to keep it in mind in the future. Same with my class privilege. But the thought of being an "ally" to women seems weird (not just because I've never heard it used that way). At least right now anyway. Online I may be able to pass as a guy, but in person, I never do.** Why should I be an ally to a group that I am assumed to be of? I have shared, and will continue to share the experiences of women for quite some time. But will this be seen as a co-optation?

I hate outing myself in every comment I make on another person's wall. It feels too much like trying to post my qualifications. But the truth is, I identify as genderqueer for a reason. I don't want to have people look at me and unequivocably think I'm male any more than I like having them assume I'm female. I don't currently, nor do I ever WANT to have male privilege.

So what's a guy like me to do in situations like these? Do I make a post with my name and hope that I don't have to get into some sort of feminist pissing contest? Do I "pre-empt" any pissing contest by being all: "me trans man, hear me roar"? Do I use a fake name that accurately identifies how others see me in the world (and therefore how I'm treated in terms of gender), if not how I see myself?*** Apparently I've opted to not make any comments 'cause it's all too frustrating to even deal with. At least in this instance.

I don't know. Looking at my last blog post, apparently I don't know the answer a lot. But at least I ask interesting questions. Right?

*(oversimplification of the comment)
**My lived experiences have twice, twice! (that I know of) included male privilege. Once in a store a clerk said: "for guys like us..." when trying to sell me a knife, and once a man yelled epithets out the window of a car and neglected to yell any female derogatory slurs. Both of these moments are some of the weirdest little treasures of my life.
***for the record, my reaction to that is an overwhelming: "Ugh!"

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Crime Dramas

I really like crime dramas. A quick list of shows that I watch include: various Law & Orders, Criminal Minds, 2 of the CSIs, Numbers, NCIS, The Mentalist, Bones, and Lie to Me. Please keep in mind that this is a QUICK list.

It's always so fun to see trans characters on these shows! Right?

Yeah. Not so much.

Seriously, how many times is a trans character just a tangential character? I can't think of very many times at all. Often trans characters are victims. Similarly often they are the twist-surprise-ending of a killer ("OMG, she killed him because she was trans!" is a pretty dumbed down, but common way that these episodes end). Same with sex workers. Or gays and lesbians. Or poly people. Or kinksters. Really, how often are any of these characters a friend of the victim? If we are in a story, it is because the story will at some point be ABOUT us.* I've definitely seen episodes where the victim was of an ethnic group, and the story seemed at first to be about their race/ethnicity/religion (some Law and Orders come to mind) but in the end, it is found that this was a RED HERRING. And I would hazard that no episode where the victim was a trans person, is the reason they were killed, that they were secretly on the wrong side of the mob. Nope. We die/kill because we are deviants. Clearly. Just look at the choices we make (saracasm added for those with irony detecting deficit).

So, how can I reconcile the ways that crime dramas treat characters who are "deviant", with my own identity?

Fuck if I know.

Sometimes I rationalize that the cop characters are ignorant fucks, because in real life, lots of cops are ignorant fucks. And that's true.
Sometimes I find hope when a sympathetic cisgendered, non-kinky, monogamous, straight, crime-fighter works towards educating hir peers. I mean, it's almost like the show is educating the watching public. Almost.
Sometimes I hope/think that the reason we're portrayed as the victims is because in real life, WE ARE VICTIMS. Quite frequently in fact. But that really doesn't do a good job of explaining why our characters are also so disproportionately a secret killer.

But what frustrates me, and always has, isn't just how the characters treat the (insert deviant identity here) victim/killer. It's that the shows are written solely for the purpose of sensationalizing our lives.

When I see a particularly egregious episode, I often try to tell myself I just won't watch that show anymore. But that rarely happens. See, like many people, I enjoy watching how these characters figure stuff out. I DO! It's absolutely true. Sometimes I think about writing a letter to the people who made the show, complaining about it. But usually I'm watching this episode months or even years after it was written. And even if I weren't, I'm cynic enough to not think that it'll do anything positive (maybe I should try to be more positive). Mostly I just keep watching, but am sure to tell all my friends, relatives, and random acquaintances about how pissed I am about the episode.

So, that's what I plan to do. For your viewing pleasure, everytime I see an episode of a crime drama where trans, kinky, poly, queer, sex working, people are portrayed (badly or well), I will write about it. For the low, low cost of $0 you can read my summary/rant about the way the episode objectified, sensationalized, or treated accurately a character. Maybe if you then notice these types of things too, I'll have one more person to kvetch with. And if you don't, there's always the next episode.

*I should note, I am not, nor have ever been a sex worker. While I have/have had friends who are/were sex workers, and have devoted some time to study of academic work surrounding it, I can't hope to speak for sex workers (wide category that "sex work" encompasses). However, depictions of sex workers are even more frequent in crime dramas, and equally (to my eyes) as offensive as any of the groups I do belong to.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The start of a blog

Here are my thoughts: no one in the world is quite like anyone else, to suggest otherwise would be fallacious. However, there are people, many in fact, who are perfectly content to believe that they are in the Norm. Normal. I don't know any of them personally, but I'm positive they exist.


Because they have blogs. And they comment on youtube videos and internet articles. We see them (as characters) in movies, tv shows, and books, and listen to their love songs. Clearly there is a Norm because there are top ten and top 100 lists. Cultural norms are pervasive.

I want to look at the things that we: read, write, listen to, watch, and supposedly love. And study them. I want to question why I am a deviant from the norm. I want to have those who do not deviate in the ways that I do be informed, and those who do have one more voice speaking for them.

This blog will be a: review and summary of media made for and about trans populations. It will be a critique of straight society's (un)spoken rules. It will be angry and sad and often happy. It will discuss my opinions much and my life sometimes. It will offer information. It will do a whole lot more that I don't even know yet.