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.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Scooters, Women's Bodies, and Male Anger

[Trigger warning for Male Anger manifesting in misogynistic language, threats of violence, and verbal harrassment]

Bluejay and I got a scooter back in the spring which we have been using daily as our main mode of transportation. Scooters are excellent, especially in the city. In the city no one can go much faster than 30 mph (the speed that a scooter tops out at) for long stretches anyway. In the city there are often long lines at lights where scooters can mosey up the right side and then scoot off into the sunset when the light turns. In most municipalities, scooters have rights to the bike lanes, thus making us potentially safer than otherwise. Scooters look cool (ours is creamsicle-like, white and orange), and they awesome gas mileage (on a tank of gas from a crappy gas station we only get 50 mpg but on a tank of gas from a high end station we get like 90 or 100 mpg).

One thing that isn't so great about scooters though is Male Anger. Scooters (and bikes) tend to make men in SUVs cranky. A few months back when Bluejay and I were going somewhere (yep, it fits two people), we stopped at the red light. Seems pretty normal, right? Other than the asshole in the SUV (actual bumper sticker: Got Oil?) behind us apparently wanted us to continue out into traffic. He honked, (Bluejay gave him the finger, he doesn't like the tendency of Boston drivers to honk at you for following traffic laws). I took the right on red I was planning on taking moments ago anyway (after having actually deliberated on whether another car would hit us if I did... you know, following those pesky traffic laws). He of courseb sped up, pulled around us into another lane, yelled curse words out the window at us, (I gave him the finger, not realizing that this was the second finger of the encounter), and proceeded to pull into the lane in front of us and weave back and forth from lane to lane when I tried to get out from behind him. Male Anger. Sort of terrifying. You know, what with us being on an open to the elements motorized bicycle, and him in a fucking Hummer (no joke). The best that could be said about him was that he had absolutely no respect for the fact that his actions could have killed us, the worst that could be said is that he was actively attempting to get us to crash.

Last night, on my way home from class I got another taste of the way that scooters elicit male anger. You should know that Boston has a notoriously large community of bicyclists that a) almost never follow traffic laws (as in passing lines of cars stopped at a red for the past minute, and then proceeding to somehow make a left on the red through oncoming traffic), b) rarely wear safety gear (brakes?!? who gives a shit about brakes! helmets? pah! they'll mess up my carefully mussed hair). Perhaps you've noticed from my rhetoric a slight disdain for that type of "loose"ness with one's safety? As in, that even if I meander towards the front of a stopped line I don't actually breeze through reds, and that I wear a helmet, and not a "brain bucket" helmet, but a full helmet with a clear eye guard that I put down in inclement weather.

So I'm stopped at the light waiting for an opening to take my left when a guy pulls up to me (I don't notice him, focusing on oncoming cars) and hisses out the window "put your face mask down, Bitch," just as there is an opening/I'm leaving. Usually in encounters like this I'm too flabbergasted, but in this case I knew exactly what I wanted to say but the coward/asswipe had already sped off.

Does this guy give such helpful safety tips to all the guys around town who think that little half-melon helmets are sufficient? Does he hiss "buy a better helmet, MAN (said with derision)" when he passes them? Does he perhaps verbally assault the male bicyclists he sees around town as they go from place to place without any protective headgear? I mean, really, what exactly is he trying to accomplish here. Did my facemask offend his delicate sensibilities?

I'm not a woman, but he clearly thought I was. I feel (just maybe) that he found the idea of a woman scooting as intimidating. Why? The experience got me to thinking about a town I used to live in where the entire biking community knew about this person who would drive around and while passing them (while they were being entirely safe and legal) would shout obscenities at them (calling them "bike faggots," among other things), and the police refused to do anything because they never "caught her in the act" and she would explain that she was just doing it for bicyclists' "safety" (uh huh? pull the other, it's got bells on it). What is it about bikes and scooters that scares people? What is it about them that is coded as "feminine" (the use of "faggot" I feel like is pretty indicative of a desire/belief that bicyclists are somehow effeminate or less manly if they aren't already women)? And why this need to police the bodies of those who are assumed to be women (or are just assumed to be feminine men)?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I've been really stressed recently. It's been vague amorphous stress, I can't pinpoint where it comes from well enough to excise it and it has been starting fights. Some of the things that are probably contributing are that my summer part-time job is drawing to a close and I need to start gearing up for my second/last year of MSW program, Bluejay and I are talking about where/when/how I'll get into a PhD program. Houses, children, animals, free time, money are also part of this future-talk. It's all sort of been swirling a bit.

Last week my father was taken to the ER because he was having trouble breathing. For the first couple rounds of chemo it seemed he'd been doing really well, his counts were up in all the right places. The last 2 rounds though he'd been having a worse reaction (it seemed to me, not actually living with him), and more lag time to feeling base level ok. Last week my mother wasn't home when he woke up and he realized he couldn't move around the house without worrying about falling over/passing out. He's said that he thinks that if she'd been home he wouldn't have bothered to call the doctor/911, he'd have tried to tough it out. Turns out there was clotting in the leg that traveled to his lungs. He's on blood thinners now.

I'm jealous of my sister who's living at home with our parents because she found out before I did and was able to see him in the hospital the day it happened. When the diagnosis for the cancer happened I was ready to be part of a caretaking team. On some level I was happy too, because I'd been feeling like a subpar son/male relative with my other folks who are sick. I wanted to redeem myself (on some level... it's also true that I just genuinely wanted to be there for my dad). Instead I've only taken him to one round of the chemo and since he does better with less people around I haven't been around more than once every few weeks. My sister and mother know what times of the week are "good times" after the chemo, but I wasn't close enough during that time to learn his personal cycle.
A neighbor came around the other day when I was there (after going to the hospital to see him) asking after him. It just felt mostly like gossip to me. There'd been an ambulance and a fire truck and as my dad put it "almost all of the emergency folks in the whole town," and she'd seen him getting wheeled away. My sister took it as her being involved and caring about him, (and probably knows better than I do), but I just found it so frustrating and icky to have just gotten in from seeing him and having her pounce on us in the driveway to get all the details.

When he first started chemo, he wanted to not have his hair look patchy. He shaved his head. He started losing his beard and I kept expecting him to shave that too... it's so thin right now I feel like I could count the individual hairs. I didn't know whether to be worried or not that he wasn't putting energy into keeping his head from getting peach fuzzy (since it was going to keep falling out and looking thin), did it mean something? Did it mean he was focusing on the important stuff or did it mean that he didn't have the energy to do something that was important to him?

I don't really need to worry about that anymore though, 'cause they've taken him off the chemo. It was killing him. Technically that's the point of chemo, to have it kill you, but hope that it kills the cancer quicker. We think? (hope?) the cancer's gone, but this wasn't the plan. This is the new plan. The one that involves rat poison (blood thinner).

Anyway, so I'm stressed. Not sleeping well and throwing up. I've got an itch in the back of my throat starting, so I'll get to begin the school year sick as well. And my grandmother's still alive, which should make me happy, other than it just means that the funeral hasn't happened yet. It's selfish but I want her to die in such a way/time that the funeral isn't during my school year, so I can attend without worrying about classwork. I'd be fine with winter break but I honestly doubt she'll make it that long, she's already beat the 6 month pronouncement by multiple months and when I visited her in early July everyone seemed to think it'd be mere hours.

About a third of me thinks that this isn't the reason I haven't been blogging (or doing anything "productive" for the upcoming school year), a third thinks it is, and another third wants it to be the reason 'cause it's a damn fine excuse.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kokopelli, Mohawks, Appropriation, and White Racism/Privilege

This is a sort of scattered post today.

I've been thinking about Kokopelli recently because of two events. The first event (though chronologically second) is that my partner and I visited the house of one of his good friends, who has a woven rug/runner thing tacked to the wall with like 20 Kokopellis woven along it basically in a conga line. The second event (chronologically first) is that a couple weeks ago, while over at my parents house, my sister mentioned that her friend had a tattoo (I believe, I can't think of the context, but I can't think of what else it would have been BUT a tattoo) of Kokopelli. Apparently I made a face, because my sister found it necessary to explain that Kokopelli is a "Native American god*" (again, I'm not certain that was exactly what she said, but I AM certain she didn't specify either: what tribes worship(ped) him or what his powers are believed to be). I stated that I knew exactly who Kokopelli is and that my face was for the fact that I think it's really screwed up for white people (her friend is a white person, just like my whole family) to appropriate meaningful symbols/gods from other cultures.

My sister countered that I didn't know how meaningful Kokopelli is to her friend. I don't care how meaningful Kokopelli is to white folks... pick a fertility god from a culture you have a background in... oh wait, what's that?, you didn't know that Kokopelli is a fertility god?, wow he must be SUPER meaningful to you I suppose! (Sorry, angry rant done). We dropped it soon after because regardless of whatever we'd say, it wouldn't change the fact that her friend had that tattoo** (they're permanent you know).

I thought back to that argument (which my partner was there for) when we entered his friend's house. I looked at the wall hanging, and was made intensely uncomfortable by it, but we were there to ask for a favor (or something), so I didn't say anything. Which makes me feel cruddy. I think the difference was that my sister brought it up in conversation the first time, whereas just seeing a wall-hanging isn't exactly an invitation to talk about it. But I still wish I'd said something (perhaps next time we're over I'll ask what her interest in fertility gods is?).

So obviously appropriation of Native cultures has been on my mind a lot recently.

Which brings me to Native Appropriations, and Adrienne's most recent post about white people wearing "Indian"/"Indian-style" headdresses. Now there are some things I don't love about her posts on the topic, well, really just one thing. It's that she calls them "Hipster Headdresses." Yes, most hipsters are white/come from upper-middle class backgrounds, but not all. Appropriation that those (privileged) individuals do they do as privileged white/rich people, not as "hipsters." Hipsters are not defacto privileged, there isn't "hipster privilege," so it seems stupid to say it's a "hipster" thing instead of (say) a "white thing" or a "rich thing." This is a common naming that happens in liberal/radical groups where I'll hear people talk about "hipster racism" as though it isn't the same damn racism that other white people do. It's white racism, and rich classism, it isn't special to hipsters, and they aren't a specially protected/privileged group (in my analogies on this subject I've pointed out that tea drinkers are probably predominantly white/privileged just like hipsters, but we don't call racism perpetrated by them "tea drinker racism"). Anyway.

One of the things that happened the other day while I was reading her post (wherein she describes having a clothing designer come to an old post to harrass her about being opposed to white people using headdresses as a cool new "accessory") was that I was struck with revulsion at the privileged asshole-ishness of E. Starbuck. Fuck that noise.

Which brings me to mohawks (the hairstyle, not the tribe).

I'm a white person, so I have white privilege. In high school I had dreads (not something I'm proud of these days, but at the time it didn't seem like a big deal). In college I had a mohawk. For a long time I've mourned that I "can't" have a mohawk anymore. For a while I felt I couldn't because I was out in the world where people would judge me negatively for having hair that didn't conform to "appropriate" standards (but I was going to find a job and then settle in and then shave it again). More recently (the past year and a bit) I've been feeling like I "can't" wear one because of the appropriation aspect of it. But I've been fighting that. I didn't feel like it was a choice I was making for myself, but one that was made for me, and it made me upset and sad (boo hoo, I know). I'd see a person (usually white, sometimes black) walking down the street with a mohawk and sigh longingly, and then Bluejay (my partner) had to remind me that it's appropriative and such. And I keep/kept saying "but hair! it's... anyone could think up shaving a stripe onto your head! plus! all the white hairstyles are boring" and then he'd (very smart, my partner is) point out that the reason that mohawks and dreads and such seem "cool" and "not boring" is because of uh, white privilege, appropriation, and racism. So then I spent weeks/months whining (not often) about how I guess I'd just have to come up with a "not boring" hairstyle that wasn't appropriative.

Bluejay pointed out to me that maybe I could use this as a learning experience to acknowledge how difficult it can be for other white folk to give up something that they think of as dear to their hearts (Kokopelli, sweat lodges, "moccasins," whatever) "just" because of white privilege. He pointed out that the things that I've "given up" because they were racist (not going to see Avatar, being opposed to conflict diamonds, etc.) are things that I either don't care about (like clothes/jewelry) or was anti-racist before I heard about them, and thus didn't find appealing (like Avatar), so it wasn't a very big sacrifice. I'm not sure Bluejay's idea worked in making me more sympathetic to people who cling to privilege, but it is helping me acknowledge that I am not Super Anti-Racist, but instead flawed (gasp! shock! horror!).

But hey! luckily for me (and my fragile white psyche), E. Starbuck has made it oh-so-easy for me to give up my fantasy for oppression-free mohawks. How? Because the second I read zir screed, I said to myself "oh fuck, I NEVER want to act like that privileged a wanker, that's probably what I sound like about mohawks." And I was (very close to) cured of my desire for one. I mean damn but that's a jerkish thing to do: seek out a Native person to harrass because they are opposed to you stealing their culture. Ugh.

So, I don't have a really good wrap up to this, other than I guess to acknowledge to myself and the world that I am not Super Anti-Racist, but with a little help from friends (and racist assholes) I can work to be less oppressive to others. Who knows, if I talk with Bluejay's friend about Kokopelli perhaps we can move together towards a less oppressive future.

*Using a non-capitalized "god" is not meant as a disrespect to Native cultures, but is instead due to my desire to not give a false reverence which I do not feel for any religions' god(dess)(es).

**For full disclosure I should mention that for 3 or so years in undergrad I seriously believed I'd get a full back tattoo of Quan Yin and Kali, two archetypes/goddesses/symbols that I really appreciated. At some point during that time I was talking with a Hindu friend of mine who apparently told me he thought it was fucked up that I was going to get a tattoo of a Hindu goddess even though I wasn't Hindu. I don't remember that conversation, but I do remember the one following it when he brought it up later as I mentioned some hugely disrespectful toilet paper with Hindu gods on it (I believe). He implied that what I was planning (still at the time interested in the tattoo) was only slightly less disrespectful than the toilet paper. I'm pretty sure I behaved in a privileged white way as a response (blabbing on about how she was meaningful to me, etc.). I don't know if I ever apologized to him for that (we no longer chat much). So, just to say that I'm not immune from having felt like appropriation is a-ok, but luckily I did take long enough figuring out who to design it and tattoo it and everything that I stopped wanting it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Trigger Warning for Transphobia

This article made me gasp in horror, fear, and revulsion. (Synopsis, a Texas firefighter died on the job, his parents are suing to stop his widow from getting any benefits because she is trans).

Some things that made me rather sick:
The article/picture captions seem to LOVE qualifying "wife" with "born a man" and "transgendered."
The bigotry of the lawyer for the mother saying that his wife is "attempting to make a huge money grab" when to any person with any sense of fairness in this world would acknowledge that the parents are the ones making a money grab, since you know, they SUED to stop their daughter-in-law from receiving any benefits.
Texas law.
and of course the comments. Don't read the comments.

I really don't know what to say about this, it's just so heartbreaking that at this most vulnerable time for her his parents are trying to cut her off from the help she could get. She's having to spend her time in court being told that she wasn't his wife for the past years (and obviously being told she isn't a woman), all to make his parents richer. Shame. Shame on them. It's days like this that make me despair for myself and the world.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Today in Meet a Poly Person: All Relationships are "Real" Relationships

Often in online conversations about poly people's relationships, real lived experiences of poly people, (or people in open relationships, or swingers, or anyone else who isn't monogamous) are ignored. There will be a strawperson (or strawrelationship) set up for the blogger or commenter to knock down in their quest to show how very bad and no good we non-monogamous people are. This series was set up in order to combat that. People in non-monogamous relationships aren't all the same, so our experiences aren't.

Hi, I'm Melusin, blogger at And What Was Ze ... I'm a pansexal trans man, a newbie activist, poet, playwright and director for a small theatre company. I live with my fiance, Roland, in the English Midlands, and we're polyamorous.

There is an old friend of mine for whom I had feelings for a long time. She is the first person I ever fell in love with, causing all sorts of angst and drama in my late teens. She's still a very good friend and every now and then I realise I'm still attracted to her, still sometimes have romantic feelings towards her. (She's made it very clear she isn't interested, and as such I wouldn't act on them).

When Roland and I were monogamous this caused me no end of grief. In fact, my entire sexual identity caused me no end of grief- I was lesbian identified at the time, and my partner is a man. I would be attracted to someone (quite often the aforementioned friend) and constantly feel like I had betrayed Roland, if in thought only. I'd be furious at myself for dreaming about women, or noticing someone I found attractive. It was exhausting.

Roland was bewildered by this. He was accepting of me being attracted to women, and sometimes we'd semi-seriously talk about having sex with another person together, sometimes discussing it more seriously than others. We were concerned with liking the person in question, and there being interest on all sides, and other things that might suggest we'd be amenable to polyamory. But when we discussed polyamory outright we were sure that it "just wouldn't work for us."

We were trying to stick to the structure, to the identification of monogamy, even though it didn't really fit us.

One day I realised that I had a very strong attraction to another person, and commenced the standard "feeling awful about this and that I was a terrible person." I blurted this out in confused fashion to Roland, with much focus on how guilty I felt and how terrible it was. A couple of days later I was in the pub with him when he said that he was okay with me telling the person this, and making advances towards and sleeping with zim. A while later that did happen, and we had a very nice, loving, one night stand. This was followed by a second occasion, and then Roland and I had the "are we poly now?" conversation and decided we were.

My relationship with my secondary partner was the first obviously queer relationship either of us had had, and then ze left the country and we're now not sure whether it will resume when ze returns, but we have enjoyed flirting and similar for most of the year. And if it doesn't resume, that doesn't mean that it doesn't count. Like Jadelyn said in a previous post in this series "Our culture would have us believe that jealousy is the natural state of a relationship, that affection is a zero-sum game and our partner enjoying the company of another somehow diminishes their love for us. But I learned otherwise."

Poly has given my partner and I a chance to appreciate the many different forms of sexual attraction and love, and realise that they are all valuable. My feelings for the old friend I mentioned at the beginning are not a threat to my feelings for Roland, and certainly don't invalidate them. Mine and Roland's other relationships, which sometimes intersect, are valuable in their own right. Poly has meant that we've both come to appreciate many things a great deal more: our past relationships, temporary relationships, single incidents of kissing with an old friend after several years of sexual tension, and our own relationship with all the details and pleasures unique to it.

And the acknowledgement of that, the discussion of current crushes and loves and anxieties and whatever else, has meant that my constant fear of slipping up, of breaking some "unseen rule," has faded. It has meant that when I'm worried about something I tell Roland about it, and that then we are able to work out "seen" rules together. There has been drama over the past year, and tensions, but it is such a bloody relief to be able to talk about it.

Poly means that we're able to create our own mould for relationships, rather than forcing ourselves into tropes and moulds that don't fit us.

If you think you or someone you know would be interested in submitting something for the Today in Meet a Poly Person series, please check out this here post with guidelines for submission. Thanks!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Recent Searches and What they Mean to Me

I've been looking at the search terms that get people here to this fine blog (still a WHOLE LOT of hits on my post about why I don't like gender bender fiction. Frankly, I'm pretty sure that years from now I'll be known as "that guy that wrote about gender bender fiction").

While I think that the person searching for gender bending rock fucking pornos is by far my most confusing of searchs, I want to talk a little about 2 general types of searches that I've been getting recently that really strike home for me.

The first is a couple with searches about like so:
"what is it called when u dont like any gender"
So, since I think this is important information to get out into the world: the word you are looking for is asexual. It's a growing movement, of which I am not really a part ('cause I sure do like sex and I haven't really put in the hours/energy to count myself an ally), which isn't exactly a situation where you don't like any gender (I know that some people who identify as asexual nevertheless have romantic relationships and inclinations towards certain genders of non-sexual partner, etc.). I don't know a whole lot more, because, as I said, I am not asexual or really an ally*. I suggest looking for some of their blogs. Here, I'll get you started (I do not vouch for these, I just googled and found them): Love from the Asexual Underground, and AVEN: the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network.
If you are typing words to the effect of "someone who doesn't like people of any gender" into a search engine because you feel like they describe yourself: awesome! Naming what you feel is a great first step to recognizing and loving yourself.
If you are typing those words because a loved one has told you they aren't attracted to people of any gender, also great (that you're taking the time to learn about this), though again, I would suggest not looking to me for answers.

The next major search result that I want to talk about is less happy fun times and more crankyness. That is "ffm." I get a lot of these (ffm marriage, ffm poly, ffm triad, etc). I guess they all go to Jadelyn's guest post Drama Does Not Define Us. The thing is, FFM relationships are the stereotypical poly triad that people (read: straight cis men) talk about.
All the jokes about "oooh, threesomes" are based on the idea of male pleasure/sexuality and about how "hot" it would be to have TWO WOMEN who were having sex with you at once (if you were a straight cis man). There's an assumption that women in these relationships are "able" to have queer relationships at the whim of a man but that men should never be expected to put up with another GUY in their relationship, OH NOES (and certainly not that a guy could be attracted to a man)! It's a frustrating meme, that is frustratingly common.
I really enjoyed the book Opening Up except at those times where Taormino seems to very uncritically take at face value those relationships that fall into the "one penis policy" ("OPP"). I hate that fucking policy. It's a terrible, sexist thing that apparently happens with some frequency.

The "OPP," as I've heard it described is basically as such: a straight (cis) couple is going to open up their relationship. The woman is bi/bi-curious and the man is not. Therefore, he states that it is fair that they both get to have sex outside of the relationship with women. But no men. Afterall, he can't enjoy having sex with men, so how is it fair for her to have sex with men? Not to mention that it'll make him jealous (of course SHE won't be jealous of him having sex with other women because... ummmm.... because women are magical non-jealous people! and because, like, duh, she'll be getting to have sex with women too, so it's totally fair!), and that she might leave him for another penis. It's often offered as a "stepping stone" to a more fair situation where she isn't artificially limited by her partner's genitalia, but that "just for the moment" he isn't comfortable with it. Only, very rarely does it seem that the "moment" ever ends. I mean, why would it? He gets to sleep around with whoever he'd want to sleep with, while he controls his partner/girlfriend/wife! What's not to love hate?

I don't know why people are searching for "FFM poly" and "FFM marriage" on my pretty lil' blog. It might be that they are all happily in such an arrangement. It might be that they are a woman and are actively seeking out such an arrangement. It could be a multitude of things. But you should know, if you don't fall into those aforementioned categories, if you are, say, a straight single (or currently coupled) cis guy fantasizing about how poly chicks are all about the FFMs, or how awesome a threesome would be? Stuff it. I'm sick of poly being envisioned as this field of pussy for the penises to frolick amongst. Poly relationships take work. Queer relationships are as meaningful/"real" as straight relationships (frankly, I feel like sometimes they are more meaningful/real, but I suppose I'm just biased what with being queer). FFM triads and threesomes and V relationships should not be about making the man happy, but about making EVERYONE happy.

Also, in case you're wondering? Any triad I'll be in will probably be QQQ (or possibly QQF, or QQM). Where are the searches for those types of relationships?

*Besides acknowledging that it is a: real, b: not bad, and c: not inherently a "phase." I do consider myself to have gone through a year long phase of asexuality where I didn't have crushes on people, I didn't fantasize about sex, and I was just plain asexual. However me saying that it was a phase for me is no more implying that asexuality is "just a phase" for others, than me saying that since I happened to go through a 10 year phase of assumed heterosexuality, that heterosexuality is "just a phase" for the rest of the world (that is heterosexual). Just because something was/is a "phase" for some people doesn't mean that the identity was/is any less valid. Though I do note that the phrase is almost entirely used by our society when referring to identities that we want to discredit or mark as "bad," so see point "b" for how I feel about that.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Words Matter, So Use Them Correctly

I've got a pet peeve folks.

Well, to be honest I've probably got a lot of them, but this one in particular is making me cranky today. I'm sure other people have written extensively about it (though cursory googling does not produce any results).

It's this: Don't use "GLBT" or "LGBT" (which are the two most common iterations of that particular acronym) if you don't actually mean Gay. Lesbian. Bisexual. and Transgender. Each. Specifically.

I'm frankly pretty sick of the label being used when really it should be "white cis gay men, and maybe a few lesbians."

Things that are not *actually* GLBT friendly: the Human Rights Campaign (when the only trans person on your board quits in protest of how thoroughly you fuck over the trans community, you are NOT an organization focusing on the GLBT community, you are, at best focusing on the GLB community), the Advocate (when only 1 of the past 21 covers you put out have a picture of a lesbian on them, and none have pictures of anyone identified as trans, or even bisexual... this is not a magazine for anyone other than the G in GLBT, let's not delude ourselves here), "LGBT panels" (that are invariously described as being about writing "gay" characters, that focus on slutty evil bisexual male characters, and that have no mention of lesbians or, wait!, this seems to be a theme!, trans people... OK, sure sounds REALLY LGBT friendly, uh huh, do you happen to have any bridges?, I'm especially interested in purchasing the Brooklyn one I've heard it's pretty), you get the idea.

Apparently some time a while ago, after Gay orgs got called out for being exclusionary, they decided that calling themselves GLBT (or LGBT) would do to fix that particular problem. And it probably helped for about 5 minutes. Trans and Bisexual folks would walk in the door and be struck by the fact that it had an acronym that included them. Yay!

These days, I think it does a whole hell of a lot more harm than good, because like Gender Bending fiction that doesn't actually depict our lives, it gives the veneer of respect and inclusion. It tells allies (or potential allies) who don't yet know about the issues going on, that "this" (whatever "this" it is, which is almost invariably a more powerful organization, and thus less likely to actually be engaged with the more marginalized of our populations) is what is trans-friendly, or bisexual inclusive looks like. So that people working on a project about the trans community use statistics from an organization that had their only trans board member quit in protest of their transphobia.

So please. If you are a safe space for gay men, fine, call yourself that. If you are a safe space for gays and lesbians, say that. But if you tack on an extra letter, MEAN IT. Don't insult us by using our letters to pad your inclusive cred.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Compare and Contrast: A Study in Two Blogs

Oh blog reading folkz, I'm rather pissed right now. The other night I noticed that a queer/gay blog I usually like had posted yet another post about Tiwonge Chimbalanga that said she was a man.
So, being pissed at the time, I wrote a comment on slap upside the head saying as much (and explaining that it was angering to have her misgendered and having the struggle of trans* people coopted and erased by queer/gay people).
The comment was in moderation (it was technically in a "guestbook" area since the blog doesn't have commenting enabled), so I went to bed.
I check my email last night and get:
Hi there!

Aw, give me the benefit of the doubt before you chew into me, alright? :)

I do trans* stories whenever I see them, and certainly would have
mentioned that Tiwonge isn't a man if I had known. As it stands, I've read
multiple mainstream news stories about the couple, but your angry letter is
the first I've heard of this, so I think it's unfair to say that I'm
"misgendering" or "falling into the erasure" of anyone. I haven't met the
two, after all. :)

I'll look a lot more into this tonight; having the mainstream media
misidentify Steven and Tiwonge's relationship is a story in itself!
So I wrote back in INCREDIBLY even tones. I didn't call him on the tone argument, or the "but be nice to the 'allies' or else we can't possibly be allies,"-ing or the fact that the story isn't that the "mainstream" media is reporting badly, but that ALL MEDIA (other than explicitly trans* friendly media, and frankly including lots of "GLB, supposedly T" media) has been doing this, OR the fact that maybe he needs to learn to read trans* friendly blogs to learn true information about trans* people (dude, if you want to be an ally, GO TO WHERE THE OPPRESSED ARE).
Nope, I recommended a blog post that would clear up his misconceptions and then wrote:
It's great that you're interested in doing perhaps a post about misgendering by the mainstream media (and just about all the activist orgs that publicized this in the first place).

However, you did misgender Tiwonge (since you said she was a man, and she isn't), and you did contribute to the erasure of trans* identities/people (since she's a trans woman and you implied she was a cis man), even if you didn't intend to. It sucks (I'm sure you're not someone who likes to think you're contributing to oppression), but it happened, and saying it was unfair of me to point it out doesn't make it better, and ignores that truth.

I will say that my tone last night was angry. It was angry because yours is one of the few explicitly queer/gay blogs I read with any regularity, (since I generally enjoy it, and generally don't enjoy many others for their explicit and implicit transphobia), and it was a big frustration for me to realize after seeing this "gay marriage" narrative played up in Every Single media report on the topic of Tiwonge that you were doing it too, and that all the gay media seemed to also be doing it. So I suppose you could see it as unfair that *your* particular blog became the "straw that broke the camel's back" but I see it as far more unfair that even on a blog that I normally feel comfortable on, I (and presumably any other trans* person who knew about the truth of the story) was made to feel unwelcome.

In other words: you stepped on my metaphorical foot (and quite a few others), it's great that you didn't mean to, but that doesn't make it stop hurting.

Thanks for listening,
The Deviant E
This morning I awake to this piece of flaming pile of nonpology crap:
Hey there,

Factual errors happen now and then on the site; particularly ones like this which are present in multiple, reputable news sources.

Blogging is not terrifically rewarding for the amount of work involved, especially when it involves original full-colour illustrations, paid hosting, etc. I admit there was an error, but the accusitory language is unfair.

I do welcome all factual corrections, and unfortunately there will be opportunities for more, but please be friendly about them and give me the benefit of the doubt. (At least until I prove otherwise. ;)
AND I go to check the website and find that
A) my initial comment was not approved from moderation, so no one knows that he was called out on this
B) he has posted another post about Tiwonge, this time burying her gender till the end to make a dramatic reveal about "mainstream media"
C) he has not posted an apology or acknowledged that this was information he could have had weeks ago, had he *looked*
D) he has said that "word has gotten out" that Tiwonge identifies as a woman, without mentioning where possibly such word could have come from (it's like magic "word" that appears on it's own)!

Contrast that my friends with something from Shakesville:
On a blog post about a study finding that children raised by lesbian couples are more well adjusted then their peers raised by straight couples, someone wrote something talking about how fundies would hate it because there needs to be "penis owning person" in the house.

I wrote a comment reminding people that penises and xy chromosomes do not a man make (and lack of penises and xx chromosomes do not a woman make). It was published.
The response?
TheDeviantE:Thanks,for the privilege check,comment fixed now.-;-@ a rose to say sorry.
And what do you know, but the comment has been changed (to indicate cis-male manly man man-ness as opposed to "penis having"ness) but the person very explicitly put in there a tag saying "Edited for gender-essentialist language"

There was no foot stamping, no "but we're on the same side, [smiley that feels really insincere because I'm rejecting your points]". The comment *went through*, it was fixed! and in a way that acknowledged the fuck up in the first place.

It's almost like... on this *other* blog, people are actually allies and respond accordingly when called out.

So, what to do folks?
I've already posted in public some of the private correspondence (not that the email address of his is secret or anything), which some might deem a breach of ettiqutte. I do so because slap upside the head won't acknowledge his own culpability in his blog either by posting my original comment or by acknowleding it in a post of his (oh, in my comment I asked him to please post a *retraction*, you know, something that acknowledges information was wrong by saying "we done screwed up"?). So I really feel like any ettiquette breach is a tiny little piss beside his ocean of othering.
So question time: Do I continue trying to dialogue being OH SO FUCKING REASONABLE? Do I remain silent and stop reading his blog, since I doubt he'll acknowledge my reasons if I give them? Do I tell him off in an email, getting angry again and telling him I'll not be reading his blog (and a whole other set of things), in the hopes of giving him a parting shot of information and a reminder that it isn't all just peachy? Do I juggle elephants?

You tell me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tiwonge Chimbalanga Is A Woman

Ok folks, I'm a little tired, a little behind on schoolwork (ok, a lot behind on school work), needing to have laid my head down on the pillow hours ago, and more than a lot pissed.

Because: Tiwonge Chimbalanga is a woman and she has been for years.
Say it with me folks! Tiwonge Chimbalanga, the (sole) female partner in a couple who were recently convicted of "homosexuality" in Malawi is a woman. Her nickname is "Aunt Tiwo." Notice the "aunt" in "Aunt Tiwo?" Tiwonge Chimbalanga is a woman.

FUCK. I mean, how many times do I need to repeat this until it sinks in in the mainstream, (and more importantly damnit, gay) media? I'm so sick of this cooptation of the struggles of trans* people (and let's be honest with ourselves, it's actually mostly the struggles of trans* women that are being coopted, and it's mostly trans* women of color who are at greatest risk of physical violence).

10 times? 100 times? I'll do it! You won't like it but I will. Because Tiwonge Chimbalanga deserves to not have one more slight thrust upon her. It was wrong of the Malawi government to attempt to jail her and her partner Steven, and it would *also* be wrong for the government to have done that if she was man. But she isn't. She's a woman. Tiwonge Chimbalanga is a woman.

Should I write a fucking song about it? I'm afraid it's pretty boring, I haven't really worked out the chord structure, melody line, or the verses, so far it's just aproximately 20 choruses of "Tiwonge is a woman" (3 times each chorus) and then at the end when performing you're required to get really angry and throw a vase full of flowers against the wall on the last line. The flowers represent humanity's attempts to pretty up bigotry. Ok, so it's mostly a performance piece. It'll be opening in NY in a month, along with my other piece "ARRRRRGGGGHHHHH: A Musing on Things that Piss Me Off"

A partial rundown of what I'm talking about: Questioning Transphobia quotes numerous articles that totally misgender Tiwonge Slap upside the head continues to repeatedly post about "gay" couple in Malawi that Tiwonge is part of (which is what set off this particular tirade), and now a random list of blogs that are queer/gay identified that just popped up when I ran a quick search that all either report on the "gay" couple without explaining the truth, or actively call Tiwonge a man.

Why yes. I am angry I just searched and found not a single LGBT (a lot of them say they are fucking LGBT on them!) blog that even mentioned preferred pronouns or the fact that "gay" is the wrong way to describe a straight relationship between Tiwonge Chimbalanga (who is a woman) and Steven Monjeza.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Today in Racist Sexism

As Renee of Womanist Musings often points out, Black women in our society are in the double, (triple, I can't even figure out how many) bind of being constantly sexualized while also having the standard of beauty be explicitly based in Whiteness. They are accused of looking ugly and "masculine," but are assumed to be available at all times for sex (which feeds into rape culture). They are stereotyped as angry, but also expected to be "Mammy" figures who care for all around them.

This comes out in particularly horrifying ways when Black women athletes are reported on in the media. Caster Semenya comes to mind for me, and so does Venus Williams, and it is the treatment of Venus Williams in the linked article that I want to look at.

The title of this banal (but still incredibly offensive) "article" is "Venus Williams wears a racy dress..." and the actual website address calls her dress "see-through." Which is to say, that she designed (I've read elsewhere that she designs all her tenis outfits, correct me if I'm wrong) a dress where she has black lace overlaying brown cloth where the brown of the cloth shows through. The brown of the cloth is matched exceedingly well to her skin tone (given how off "skin tone" things usually are, regardless of the pigmentation of the wearer, I feel this is no small feat, just think of those ice skating outfits where the "skin tone" bits are just an entirely different color, even with White skaters). So of course, the first major error of this short (5 sentence) article is in the website address, and it is that the dress is "see-through". It is no more "see through" than my pants I am wearing right now.
(I also remember that a while ago, a similarly ridiculous article was written about another outfit that she wore where she again matched her skin tone and the cloth color in order to not show her underwear (I believe). Again they described this as "shocking" or "scandalous.")

Another error of the article is referring to the outfit as a "can-can" outfit, given that it does not share the key requirement of can-can outfits in that it doesn't have a long flouncy skirt (with frills underneath) for the high kicking necessary to rate her activity as the can-can.

The next bit of offensiveness is in the first sentence, where they state that Venus Williams could "find work" at the Moulin Rouge. They then clarify that they mean the historical Moulin Rouge in the third sentence when they reference her "auditioning for a spot at a 19th century cabaret."
For context, the wikipedia article on the Moulin Rouge euphemistically refers to the original dancers at the Moulin Rouge as "courtesans." Of course, it also describes them as the originators of the striptease, and states that the can-can as developed by the courtesans was "an attempt to seduce potential clients" (ummm, what type of clients could they possibly be referencing?) and that in the course of the dance, the revealing of genitals sometimes happened (because that happens all the time at the ballet!). To really hit home what the Moulin Rouge was (and what the dancers were considered to be), even though the article doesn't *explicitly* state that it was a whore-house, it nevertheless refers to when the Moulin Rouge suddenly became a "legitimate nightclub" and that it had a "reputation as a 'high-class brothel'" (which would hardly be necessary to state if it was truly a nightclub in the beginning). So let's just acknowledge it for what it was at the time: a strip club where the workers probably often had sex with the clients.

So, back to the article (sorry for the digression), they are explicitly referring to the historical Moulin Rouge and saying that she could "find some work" there. So they are saying that a strong Black woman athlete is equivalent to a prostitute (or at "best" a stripper).

I want to state for the record that I do not view sex work as an immoral thing/profession. I do not believe that individuals who engage in non-coercive sex work (so, leaving out pimps for instance) are immoral for doing so. However, in our society it is extremely stigmatized to be a sex worker of any stripe, and the most stigmatized group are prostitutes.

And this article compared Venus Williams to a sex worker/prostitute in an effort to shame her.


That is all in: Today in Racist Sexism.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Search Engines Say the Darndest Things

Ok friends, I generally try to not post more than once a day, because so often I post less than once a day, so I figure: "why not spread out the joy* a little?"
But, today, I just couldn't help myself, because there is something that is absolutely necessary for you to know.

I have a little widget that lets me know how many people stop by the blog/read what posts/etc. It also tells me what searches brought my visitors to The Deviated Norm. One of most recent searches that landed someone here was...

"transgender AND gender bender AND rock fucking AND porno web sites"

I like to think that I'm a pretty open minded guy, but I seriously have to ask something. What the hell is rock fucking?
I identify as kinky, even though there are certainly kinky things that people do that I'm not interested in, I usually know about them. I know about the more regular BDSM fetishes, I know about leather and latex fetishes, I know about Furry communities and people who really enjoy dressing up as babies and get sexual satifaction from that. I know about golden showers and coprophilia. I know about people who are into surface piercing as foreplay, and flogging, and foot fetishes. I know people who are necrophiles. I know even that all of these things I've mentioned are *somewhat* common, if not super common. But rock fucking? I have no idea what the hell that is.

I mean, I honestly feel a little bad for whoever it was that searched for that and got this, because it seems highly unlikely that they found what they were looking for: I'm a pissed off trans* guy (hardly titilating, I mean, unless you really like pissed of trans* guys in a sexual way), one of my most linked to/read/commented on posts is about my deep dislike for gender bending fiction, and there isn't any pornos to be seen here. I also don't think I have any pictures of rocks up on the site.

So, I'm sorry anonymous reader interested "rock fucking" pornos, perhaps you could explain what you were looking for?

*or whatever

Advertising that Makes Deviant E Get All Cranky

Sorry for the long absence.

So let's jump right in with two examples of advertising that creeped me out and pissed me off (for very similar reasons) without them showing or saying a single negative thing.

We'll start off with a Brawny Towel ad with an animated lumberjack singing "Lean On Me"

as always, click on the cut link for as complete a transcript as I can make.

Next we have a Macy's ad for jewelry, with the song "Seasons of Love" being sung in the background.

as always, click on the cut link for as complete a transcript as I can make.

So, what creeps me out and pisses me off about these two ads? It has something to do with the idea of taking songs from oppressed groups and putting them into your advertising, and in the process making invisible their origins.
"Lean on Me" was written in 1972. It is a song written by a Black man, in the Soul genre, at a time just following the organized Civil Rights movement. It's a song about community and the strength and power that can be found when people rally together.
The voice in the advertisement sounds stereotypically "Black" and is singing in the genre that the song comes from. Yet they have a White lumberjack as the animated icon portrayed as singing it. They took a song that could reasonably be seen as a song about the strength of social movements, and erased the Black origin of it, and put it into a fucking Paper Towel ad. I suppose I'm meant to be grateful that they included a Black family in the footage? That pisses me off and creeps me out. And of course, they screwed around with the lyrics in the process so that they could do this.
"Seasons of Love" was written for the musical Rent. It's a musical about AIDS. It has numerous gay characters. Seriously, out of a main cast of 7-8 people, 4 of them are in same-gender relationships.
In the advertisement, is there a single gay couple depicted? Nope. There are numerous romantic couples depicted, and not a single gay one amongst them. The ad writers took a song that is couched in the AIDS epidemic (at the time it was written, primarily associated with gay men), and somehow manage to take away all reference to gayness in the advertisement.

Neither of the ads was explicitly racist or homophobic. But by their decision to make things more "universally appealing," they took songs from particular oppressed groups and put them in the mouths of their oppressors. They took something away from the Black community and the Gay community and gave it to Whites and Straights. If we(gays)/they(Black people) aren't good enough to be the icons of your feel good advertising, then you get no fucking right to our creative endeavors.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Today In Meet a Poly Person: Drama Does Not Define Us

Often in online conversations about poly people's relationships, real lived experiences of poly people, (or people in open relationships, or swingers, or anyone else who isn't monogamous) are ignored. There will be a strawperson (or strawrelationship) set up for the blogger or commenter to knock down in their quest to show how very bad and no good we non-monogamous people are. This series was set up in order to combat that. People in non-monogamous relationships aren't all the same, so our experiences aren't.

Hi, I'm Jadelyn, blogger at Witch.Words (and also sometimes at The Border House). I'm a mid-twenties bisexual polyamorous feminist Witch, a student, and a gamer. When I'm not hefting my teaspoon in various arenas of activism, I can be found working towards finishing my years-delayed B.A. and playing way too many video games.

When I try to describe the last year and a half of my relationships to friends I haven't spoken with in awhile, I always get the same reaction. In text, it's something like this: "...wow. That's really complicated, isn't it?" And in person, it's the same plus the addition of raised eyebrows and a very careful neutral tone. It's hard, in our culture, to adequately describe the shifting dynamics of a somewhat fluid polyamorous arrangement.

Some quick terminology notes to begin with, for those unfamiliar with the vocabulary of polyamory. Primary refers either to one's primary partner or relationship. This is the relationship which all involved parties have agreed takes precedence over the others, if a conflict arises. Generally, one is assumed to spend more time and energy on one's primary relationship and partner than on one's secondary and tertiary relationships. Triad refers to a three-person relationship; it may be an equilateral triad - all three persons are considered primary partners - or non-equilateral - one relationship between two participants is primary, and both of those primary partners have a secondary relationship with the third person.

Back to my story. In the past year and a half, my 6-year primary relationship opened to include a third in a nearly-equilateral triad arrangement. It was my first experience with polyamory, and it began as a one-night stand, but we then fell in love and entered what was to be a nearly year-long triad relationship. About ten months later, I reconnected with an old ex and met his fiancee; they, too, are poly, and I became their third. Shortly thereafter, the woman who'd joined my primary and I as our third left the relationship, and things between my primary and I got rocky for awhile. Another six months later, and the other triad I was involved in ended rather explosively (long story), right as I struck up a casual relationship outside these varied triads with a long-time friend of my then-primary and I. Finally, the new relationship with my primary's and my friend proved to be the final push that helped me realize it was time to end the primary relationship I'd had. So in the space of 18 months, I went from a single one-man-one-woman relationship, to a FFM triad, then I became the second F in someone else's FFM triad, then it was my old primary and I, plus still my new triad, then the primary and I and my other relationship, and finally it's boiled down to me, engaged to the friend, and us currently living monogamously.

Through all of this, I've seen (and, sadly, participated in, though I like to think I've learned from the experience) the kind of behavior that makes non-poly people tsk and shake their heads and say "That's what I told you would happen." 2009 was a drama-full year for me, relationships-wise, I admit that. But I've also seen and participated in poly arrangements that were as stress-free as any relationship, monogamous or otherwise, and even more so than some of the monogamous relationships I've had. In fact, I would say that opening our relationship to the woman we came to love greatly enhanced my original primary's and my relationship. We fought less. We had more fun, both with and without her. We both suddenly had avenues to explore in our own relationship needs and sexual desires, that weren't there before. And I will always treasure the great gift that relationship gave me: the knowledge that jealousy is not inevitable. Our culture would have us believe that jealousy is the natural state of a relationship, that affection is a zero-sum game and our partner enjoying the company of another somehow diminishes their love for us. But I learned otherwise. I learned that jealousy follows from insecurity, and that when one's partners are gentle of one's feelings and careful to offer all the reassurance and love one asks for and needs...the jealousy goes away. I learned how to sort through my feelings; how to have open, frank discussions of wants and needs and boundaries in a relationship, and how to respect the conclusions of such discussions. I learned how to tell when I was really hurt by something, and when I just needed to ask for some reassurance to feel okay again; and most importantly, I learned that there is no shame in asking for what I need, because it allows the relationship to continue functioning happily instead of creating resentment.

I am an imperfect poster child for polyamory. As any social justice activist could tell you, it's always easiest to "justify" one's cause to the other side when you have the "right kind" of example, the easy case. For pro-choicers, for example, it's easier to use as an example a mother of two whose pregnancy with a third and wanted child suddenly threatens certain death if she carries to term, because nobody could possibly dispute the necessity of that abortion. Those advocating for health-care reform garnered better results from the angry masses when talking about a single parent with cancer who was laid off and now is dying without the ability to access insurance or treatment. It's easier to push for same-sex marriage when you can show couples who have been together for 50 years, than to acknowledge the serial monogamists or LGBs who only casually date. And when it comes to polyamory, it's easiest to legitimize it in the eyes of skeptical monogamists if one can point to long-term, stable, drama-free, "perfect" poly arrangements, because the fewer visible flaws the relationship(s) have, the harder it will be to pick it apart and blame everything bad on the polyamory. I, on the other hand, with my drama and shifting from one arrangement to another, in quick succession and not always cleanly, am easy pickings for critics, who would claim that all the drama in my love-life stems from the polyamory itself, not the relationships or the people involved.

But it is for that reason that relationships like mine need to be visible, too. Otherwise we allow the disapproving masses to set the bar on what kind of poly is acceptable and what isn't, and nobody wants their relationship to be judged by someone else's standards. If we allow that, then where is the threshold set? Are only stable triads acceptable? How long must a relationship last before it's considered "stable"? Can people sneer at you and question the legitimacy of your relationships and say your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner doesn't "really" love you, because you're poly, so long as it's an open relationship of under, say, 5 years duration? Polyamory is about respecting the legitimacy of all kinds of love relationships, because we understand that what works for one person won't necessarily work for another. And that includes those poly arrangements which aren't perfectly stable, those which are semi-dysfunctional, because perfection should not be a requirement of our existence any more than it is for monogamous relationships.

As for my poly future? I'm deeply interested in working toward the legalization of polymarriage here in the U.S., because in an equilateral poly group, how do you decide who marries who? Like it or not, marriage confers a certain stamp of legitimacy on relationships in our culture, and it would be terribly hurtful to have to say, "This pair out of the relationship is the "real" one, the legitimate one, and everyone else is legally an afterthought." And while I'm living monogamously with my fiance for the moment, we have talked it over, and we've decided that if or when we meet the right woman, and she's amenable, we would be willing to open our relationship into a triad. I found I was much happier and more comfortable in a mostly- or nearly-equilateral triad than in a situation with multiple independent relationships, or a deeply imbalanced triad; that's just what works best for me. So I very much hope that the Universe allows me another chance to experience that happiness in my life.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Are you Non-Monogamous? Poly? Become a Guest Blogger!

I have recently started the series "Today In: Meet a Poly Person" which I'm hoping will attract people to write narratives combating the idea that there is a single way to be poly, and that people in non-monogamous relationships are bad or deluded or whatever word is the newest way to slam us. So, if you think this might be a thing you'd be qualified/interested in writing about (hint, if you identify as poly/non-monogamous, regardless of your current relationship, or if you are currently in a non-monogamous relationship, then you qualify), please feel free to email me at the address connected with this blog: thedeviatednorm (at gmail)

What I'm looking for is a plethora of voices about the different ways that non-monogamous people relate to commitment, love, relationship styles, children, sex, dating, and just about anything else falling into the "relationship" category that you can think of. And especially people's reasons for being non-monogamous, (aka what drew them to non-monogamy).

I'd also be interested in having people include how polyphobia/their identity as non-monogamous interacts with other oppressions that they have faced (if one wanted to talk about how ze as a poly person of color felt accepted or not into the poly community, or the way that being a woman in a non-monogamous relationship adds to the judgement placed on you, etc.), since it's important in order to create a more full picture of the poly/non-monogamous communities that we not neglect the to acknowledge -isms within our own communities or how our identites shape one another.

Also, if you are in the non-monogamous/poly community and you aren't interested in writing, but you think you might know someone who would be, please feel free to pass this invitation along to hir as well.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Today In Meet A Poly Person

Often in online conversations about poly people's relationships, real lived experiences of poly people, (or people in open relationships, or swingers, or anyone else who isn't monogamous) are ignored. There will be a strawperson (or strawrelationship) set up for the blogger or commenter to knock down in their quest to show how very bad and no good we non-monogamous people are. So, in order to combat that, I would like to start a series about the real lived experiences and desires people who are non-monogamous. We aren't all the same, so hopefully I'll be able to find people willing to write about their different experiences regarding their relationships and lives.

Hi, my name is TheDeviantE. I am a poly person.

What do I want in my life?

I want to have a loving and committed relationship to my current partner Bluejay until one or the other of us dies. I want to find one or more other partners with which to also share a loving and committed relationship until one or the other of us dies. What I'd love most of all would be to find one or two other partners who also wanted to have a loving and committed relationship with both me and Bluejay (and each other, if more than one). A relationship like this is often called a Triad (or Quad). Besides my loving and committed relationships to Bluejay and some as yet unfound other partner(s), I am interested in sometimes going on dates and making out with and maybe having sex with other people, people who perhaps I like but don't think I want to live with forever.
I also want to adopt children. I mean, unless our as yet unfound other partner(s) wanted to and were able to gestate and birth a child, in which case that'd be cool too. I want to raise children in a loving and caring home, with multiple adults able to look out for them and teach them. If Bluejay and I wanted to go on a date alone, our other partner(s) could watch the kids for the night, or vice versa. If little Bluejay Jr's play was on the same night as little DeviantE's basketball game, we'd all split up and give our children as much attention as they needed and wanted. We'd have 3 incomes instead of 2, or 2 incomes instead of 1 (if one of us were to stay home with the kids). We'd have different skills and abilities, so I could teach them math, and Bluejay could do awesome art with them, and our as yet unfound other partner could show them how to fix a car or do plumbing.

I want to have more partners because it means more people to support me and more people to support our children, and more people for me to love. I want to go on dates because... dates are fun! and new love (or lust) is too! I want to have children and raise them because I'll be a good parent, and I want to especially foster and adopt children who are rejected by others because they are queer or trans like I am, because I'll be extra good at not rejecting them. I just sort of want to settle down with some people and make an awesome life with them.

Basically, I'm just interested in nesting. I'm a nesting poly person, I suppose.

Oh, and I want to marry all of my partners because I want to be able to see them in the hospital if they get sick and have them automatically be entitled to my estate when I die, and so that our children will be recognized as being all of ours, and so that if they (or I) are/am immigrants then we will have the ability to stay together as a family. I want to have the right to be married to all of my partners because only marrying one will make our other relationships seem that much less valid to the eyes of the government, and how am I supposed to decide which partner I will love more and cherish more? I want to be able to get married to my partners because I want to nest and in our society nesting is often related to marriage.

So that's me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"How Many Different Fathers?": On the Intersection of Classism, Racism, Polyphobia, and Sexism

At my agency, families are supposed to be our clients. However, since children are not expected to change their behavior (so long as they are under 16, I believe), the onus of responsibility in ensuring that a case closes generally falls on the mother. Almost always the mother. Regardless of whether the case opened because the father's neglect of the children, and even sometimes regardless of whether it opened because of his abuse of them. Which is a whole other enraging post.

I have yet to have a case where a single father is raising children with the mother out of the picture, whereas the majority of my cases are ones where a woman is raising her children on her own, sometimes due to death of the father, more often due to the relationship ending and the woman "naturally" being given responsibility to raise the children. I often have cases where the father, who is still with the mother, doesn't live with the children, and as such his participation is seemingly only "encouraged" rather than "required" by the Department.

But, I wasn't intending to talk about my feelings about the Department's sexism. Or at least not about that particular iteration of its sexism. Instead I wanted to talk about the judgement that my clients receive about how many different fathers of how many different children they have.

It is, frankly, infuriating that social workers give a rat's ass about some other social worker's client's number of current or former partners. It's bad enough when I have to hear about some other worker's client who *OH NOES!* has 3 children from three different relationships, but to have people begging to know the details of my clients' sexual relationships? IN. FUR. IATE. ING. As it is when I'm complaining about a case to someone other than a coworker, and totally unrelated to what I'm saying, they need to know how many kids/fathers there are in the picture.

The thing is, I seriously don't give a shit how many partners someone has had, other than to get important information about familial relations between siblings and their parents. It is very relevant to me when I find out that one child's father is in jail, but the other child's father lives nearby and comes over once a month. It is relevant to me when I hear that a father of one of the children says that he "wouldn't mind" taking the other children if custody is taken away from the mother. These things matter to me because they say something potentially about how each child feels cared for in their family. They don't matter to me so that I can judge the mother better.

You know what literally never crosses my mind when talking to a mother who has had multiple sexual partners, and children with more than one?

That she doesn't respect herself.
That she is promiscuous and therefore less moral.
That she is out of control.
That she is stupid.

I had trouble writing that list because a) since I don't think those things automatically, it's hard to dredge them up when I try to, b) I fucking hate that these are considered appropriate things to think about someone else's choices to have children or not (or more likely, sex or not, because lots of people would just as harshly judge a woman who has had 3 abortions due to multiple sexual relationships as they would a woman with three children from multiple partners).

But I can see these thoughts scurrying across the faces and hear them embedded in the tones of those who ask me salaciously for my clients' relational details. And you know what? My clients all know that people judge them for these things. I know they know because on the few occasions where I've been able to convince (through my tone, body language, and probably some verbal cues) a client that I am not judging them for their sexual choices (or their father's or mother's sexual choices), they have invariably opened up to me emotionally and physically (less guarded posture, giving me details of their family lives, etc.) more than they had before, and more than they have with other workers.

So, this happens. Where does it come from? Perhaps you've noticed that I titled this post "On the Intersection of Classism, Racism, Polyphobia, and Sexism".

Most of my clients are poor (ok, all of my clients are poor).
Most of my clients are people of color (I was going to get my first white family this week, but another case came back so I still have a history of only families of color).

In our culture, poverty and non-whiteness are treated as though they are synonymous. This isn't the case, but you'll notice that my clients are all poor and they have all been people of color, so they *are* linked.
In some ways, I think the judgement is mostly a facet of classism, because there is an assumption that more wealthy people's relationships have been deliberated on (regardless of how long they lasted prior to marriage or children), whereas there is an assumption (and I can't say whether it's based in fact at all) that poor people are less likely to be married when they have children (I could see this being based in fact because it costs money to marry, and costs even more to divorce), which codes as "less likely to have thought about the relationship, prior to having children" (regardless of whether they've been together for 10 years) according to our society.
However, at the same time, since whiteness = money in our culture, a white family is not assumed to be poor as readily as family of color is. So, when we talk about "poor people" having lots of children "recklessly," as a society we are to be more honest as to our underlying thought processes, talking about "people of color" having lots of children "recklessly." As such, a random family of color* will be more likely to be assumed to have been the product of multiple relationships, as compared to a random white family. Related to this is the fact that since the majority of clients at my office are families of color, a "default" family that is being talked about, unless specified as white, will be assumed to be black (or maybe latino, depending on the social worker's experiences), and as such questions about sexual histories will be mapped onto a "default" family of color.

So that takes care of the classism and racism aspects of what I see going on when people ask "how many fathers?" (incredulously or certain of the answer, take your pick).

What about the sexism and polyphobia?

Well, as mentioned above, the vast majority of childraising parents are women. So, while fathers do get judged for having multiple children, just as often, I hear the mothers being judged for being in a relationship with a man with other children. Additionally, fathers often visit their children at their children's mothers' houses. As such, they have an ability to deny certain children if they wish, and social workers have an ability to neglect to wonder about other children, since there aren't any children in front of them requiring explanations. It's like a magic trick: "No children to see here!" And of course, in those instances where a woman has had multiple children with multiple partners, I NEVER hear judgement of the father for getting involved with a woman with other children. Usually, so long as he doesn't treat the other children like crap, he's just about lauded as a hero for having the courage and kindness to be able to love a woman with other children. Or something.

I trust I don't need to say that women's sexuality is highly stigmatized and denigrated in our society, and that children are the ultimate proof of sexuality. Do I? Because it is. So of course, that's another layer on the judgment cake.

And lastly, the thing that all ties it together with a big fucking bow is the fact that as a society, monogamy is viewed as moral whereas anything else is not. There is a book called The Ethical Slut, which for some in the poly community was their first introduction into polyamory. There is no book that I have heard of (and certainly none which are known in the monogamous community with the same type of recognition) called The Ethical Prude. Because, *obviously* prudishness is ethical. It's like when I heard the criticism of the phrase "white trash" where someone pointed out that specifying someone is "WHITE trash" implicitly assumes that people of color are trash, so you don't even need to put an identifying marker when talking about them. Same goes for The Ethical Slut, but in reverse: in our culture there is no need to write a book about how to ethically be monogamous, because it is assumed to be the case by default(even though lots of mongamous people treat their partner's terribly, or hurt their partner in petty little ways without noticing).

A couple months ago, in a paper to talk about one of my cases, I chose one where I had fucked up. I had assumed that someone had been raised by hir mother, because I have had the privilege of having been raised by an intact family, and my parents never were in a situation where they were too poor to feed themselves and their children, my parents never *needed* to give me to someone else to raise in order for me to eat. My privilege got in the way of my discussion with that client.
With hir partner, however, I was immensely prepared, because as zie was telling me (somewhat shamefully) about hir father and his multiple children, and how zie had 12 half-siblings (or whatever the number was), I was able to to bypass the step my supervisor would have needed, of judging and then working around that judgment. Because that's the topping on the cake for me, while my colleagues might (and many don't) acknowledge that classism or racism play a role in how they treat their clients, NONE of them seem to acknowledge how monogamism** plays a role in how they treat their clients.

I have classism that I have to conciously combat when working with my clients. I have racist ideas that I have to conciously combat when working with my clients. I have ableist ideas that I have to conciously combat when working with my clients.

What I don't have? Polyphobia. And unlike my coworkers and peers, I know that it exists and that it hurts people.

*in this case I believe Asian families would be partially immune
** like it? I just made it up. Do people know of a better word?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cheerful Philosophical Musings On Death

I want to talk a little bit about death. This is apparently a touchy subject for people, so if it is for you, you may want to not keep reading.

Everybody is going to die. I'm going to die, you're going to die, my best friends are going to die, your relatives are going to die (if they aren't dead yet), everyone is going to die. Everyone. This isn't meant to be a mean statement, and to my thinking it really, truly isn't mean. It also isn't meant as some sort of threat or menace. It's just truth. Everyone dies.
In my dealings with (most) other people in the past decade I've noticed that they tend to get a little... antsy? jittery? anxious? upset? when this fact of life is mentioned. People apparently are scared of death, and because of that they will do lots of things to make that fear go away. One of the things they do is try to forget that death happens.

Early in my undergrad. years, I read a set of stories in Spanish class.

The first was the story of a youngish (we'll say 30s?) man who was a servant. One day he went into the market to get his master food or something, when he ran into Death. When he saw Death he was shaken up, because in most cultures (and I assume the one the story is told in), usually people only see Death when they are going to die soon. And then, something that terrified him even more was that Death seemed to grimace extra when he saw the man. Clearly, the man was on Death's shitlist. So the man ran back to his master's place and begged for the week off and the fastest horse or donkey around, 'cause he really really needed to visit his sister in far off Gargleblat (can you tell I'm not good at details?). The master agreed to the time off and the donkey on the condition that the man told him why he needed it so bad. The man said that he'd just seen Death in town and he was hoping to outrun/confuse Death by going to Gargleblat.
Of course the master then decides to go to the marketplace to see Death and find out what the whole deal is about. When he gets there, he asks Death why he grimaced upon seeing the servant. Death explains that he was just surprised was all, as far as he knew, he thought that tonight they had an appointment in Gargleblat, and it was weird to see the guy in Plonkville.

The second story in the set was written as a response to the first, and honestly I don't remember it nearly as well because it didn't really resonate the same way for me. In the story the man has reached Gargleblat and realizes that Death is still after him. He goes around town looking for someone to help him outwit Death, but as soon as anyone hears that tonight's his night they shutter the windows and kick him out, until he finds a guy who tells him that he'll help him. The man tells him that so long as he can survive till the morning, then Death won't be able to ever take him. Then they somehow beat Death with mirrors.

The first story treated fear of death as silly and misplaced. It framed death as an appointment, and Death not as a bad chap, just a guy with a job. The second story treated death as something to be avoided at all costs. Never dying was a reward for successfully besting Death. Death became an adversary. Lastly, it was unrealistic, since everyone dies (we'll put aside the manifestation of a fact of life) and at the end of it, the man is made immortal.

Everyone in my class liked the second story better than the first. Everyone, but me and the teacher. I thought the first story was funny. I liked that it looked at life head on. I liked that it admitted that death is going to happen.
Everyone in the class said I was morbid.

This past week I learned that my grandmother's situation is deteriorating. When she got her prognosis 6ish months ago, they basically told her that 6 months was on the outside of how long she'd have to live. So, it's not really a shock that this is happening now. However, one thing she's been firm on for a while is that she and my grandfather are not to talk about the possibility of her dying. She won't talk about it with anyone. Which means that she didn't get around to setting up the necessary steps for her to get hospice care in the home, should she fall into a coma (nor has anyone else in a position to do so). No one knows what to do, because if we all go see her right now on the likelihood that she won't be around in a month, or if we start putting pressure on her to get all the hospice/end of life care stuff worked out, then she'll feel pissed about us forcing her mortality on her

For context, you should also know that my grandfather's first wife (my mother's mother, who died when I was 2) steadfastly continued to insist that she was getting better and that the Goddess (or the Universe, or whatever) would heal her, right up until her death. Some of her daughters' last conversations with her were fights. So...

I'm conflicted, because on the one hand I definitely feel like everyone has a right to self-determination. If you want to shut your eyes and bury your head in the sand about your impending death, fine, do it. But it does harm people around you when you do it, and frankly I just don't understand it. I told my cousin this recently and he said he really sympathized with our grandmother. Which, again, I just don't get.

Then he said "not everyone is like you, most of us are afraid of death."

And I realized! Being depressed and wanting to be dead for all of my adolescent and adult life has given me the gift of less fear! I feel like a superhero: "Depresso Guy"!
Well honestly, if I was dying of cancer, maybe I wouldn't feel as nonchalant as I do about it right now. Admittedly, many things that seems cool in the abstract are fucking terrifying in the real. Like snowboarding. Tried it once, loved going fast, probably looked really awesome and such, until I realized I had no idea how to stop and started worrying about killing a child (ETA: *by going too fast and hitting hir*) when I got to the bottom. So I purposefully took a dive in the trees, pulled some muscles, decided that snowboarding wasn't for me, and anyway it was classist and exclusionary. (Sorry, off topic).
The point is, maybe I'm just deluding myself into thinking that I don't find death terrifying. Maybe I do, and in the long tradition of people who are scared of something and therefore convince themselves that they aren't scared, I say I'm not.

But I've got to say, the idea that maybe for once my Depression has given me something useful, namely the ability to not find my own death so terrifying that I shut down in the face of it, that's sort of cool.

Anyway, I hope your life, however long it is, is one which you generally enjoy.

Today In Things Any Disability Rights Activist Could Tell You

So, people are nosy assholes. Well, let me amend that. Many people think that your body (or your loved one's body) is totally their business, the second that you (or your loved one) have something that sets you apart from "normal."

Things that set you apart from "normal" include: being pregnant, having a visible disability, having an invisible disability (and telling people about it), being mentally ill (and telling people about it), being fat, oh, and getting one of the "big" sicks (including our good friend cancer).

Let me tell you a little story.
Once upon a time, there was a social work student (we'll call him GleeviantD) whose father had just been diagnosed with cancer, and who was understandably a little "not so happy" about this situation.
GleeviantD kept having the seemingly innocuous question: "hey, how're you?" asked by people that were somewhere between friend and acquaintance, though a little bit closer to "fellow students." GleeviantD was starting to loathe this question because answering honestly: "not too hot, actually" was sure to elicit the "oh, not too hot!? what's going on?" which, when answered honestly, brought the conversation to a screeching halt because cancer sort of does that to a conversation.

GleeviantD though also didn't like lying or pretending that nothing was going on because a) he wasn't that sort of fellow and b) he had a sneaking suspicion that at *some* point he'd slip up when talking to these not quite friends, not quite acquaintances, more like fellow students, and mention the cancer and then the conversation would still come to a screeching halt, only now it'd be months later and he wouldn't be in control of when it occurred.

So GleeviantD did what seemed right. He decided to tell a whole class at once about the cancer, right after a lunch break, so that he could not have the same damn conversation 12 times. In fact, it was Gleeviant's fondest desire that he wouldn't actually have to have a *conversation* about it at all, that if the information was given in announcement form, and he phrased it just right, he could preclude a discussion of the matter entirely and just get on with the damn lecture.

I'm sure, gentle readers, that at this moment you are ruefully chuckling to yourselves that GleeviantD was so naive as to assume that making an announcement whereby he said "I figured I'd tell everyone like this because it's tiring have to have the same conversation over and over again" would actually forestall anything. If you aren't, you may commence now.

So GleeviantD attempted to figure out just how to phrase the announcement in a way that indicated a) he did not want sympathy, and was in fact starting to get a bit sick of it, b) he didn't want to talk to people about it, and was in fact starting to get a bit sick of having heartfelt discussions with people about it and c) he was handling it just fine, he wasn't about to break down crying right then and there and was planning on continuing to attend classes and such. Something along the lines of "so, just wanted to let you all know that last week my family found out my father has cancer. I'm going to be the one driving him to chemo, I don't think this will affect me coming to class or anything, but I wanted to let you know so that you aren't surprised if I'm not all "whee! awesome" when you ask how I am. I figured I'd tell everyone like this because it's tiring talking about it again and again." Not perfect, but pretty close to achieving his communication goals. Or so Gleeviant thought.

Immediately, someone across the room decided to offer this helpful bit of advice: "I know a naturopath who cured herself of cancer naturally. I'll give you her phone number for your dad if you want," while someone next to Gleeviant offered this: "Do you have support structures for yourself? If you're going to be supporting your father you really need to get yourself a support structure." Gleeviant realized he may have created a monster that he couldn't control and tried as best as possible to (politely) discourage this line of discussion by telling everyone "right now I'm doing fine, if I need anything, I will be sure to ask."

After class, both people who had earlier felt the need to speak up, again came to GleeviantD this time to profer their advice and sympathy personally.
This time, when one of them just about tried to force the number of the woman who cured herself of cancer using herbs into the hands of GleeviantD, he had to bite back his tongue in order to not tell her "thanks, but we believe in science as opposed to miracle cures, what with replicable results" instead saying: "my dad seems pretty cool with the idea of chemo so I'm just going to follow his lead."

The moral of the story: people think that other people's bodies are their fucking business. They don't care if you've just said "I don't want to talk about it" they don't care to find out *what* you are doing as a caretaking method before telling you what you should do (or should want to do), and they certainly don't seem to care that it's none of their fucking business to offer help, unless you ask for help.

Let's all try to be less like those people in the future, ok? Or else we'll make GleeviantD quite pissy.

This has been a "Today In: Things Any Disability Rights Activist Could Tell You"