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.

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!"


  1. Probably less than helpful:
    Sign "E" or "Z"?

    I'm feeling particularly inarticulate today but unless you were saying something grossly anti-feminist (and even then, I would be hesitant), I would never discredit your opinion based on how I perceive your gender based on your name. Maybe other people feel this way?


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