things to think about


today i am thinking about: MY GENDER IS NOT YR GENDER
June 23, 2009, 3:52 pm
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I am all for community projects. I am all for people trying to do something awesome for their community. Sometimes I feel myself refuse to put things out there because I feel like I haven’t sufficiently “vetted” them — what if this person found it problematic? What if that person found it problematic? What if I’m being white supremacist? Classist? Just a jerk? I feel difficult about the ways in which queer communities, especially, shut stuff down sometimes completely rather than work within projects to make them better in that way that means there is 1 person organizing something and 15 people sitting around bitching about how imperfect that person’s efforts are without doing anything to try and fix it or making their own thing or doing anything more productive than sitting back and critiquing the imperfection of the person who at least has the nerve to try.

Which brings me to http://www.tophotbutches.com, Sinclair Sexsmith‘s project about, well, I’ll quote:

Top Hot Butches: The 100 hottest butch, masculine, androgynous, genderqueer, transmasculine, studs, AGs, dykes, queers, and transguys. […]I am using [butch] instead of another term – like androgynous, genderqueer, or transmasculine – because I, personally, want more butch reclamation and visiblity, because I think butch identity is more widely varied in range of expression and identity than is usually represented, because I think it is the most accessible and recognizable word representing some sort of female masculinity, because I want to encourage its reclamation and intentional display, because it is sharp and satisfying as a title, and because it is slightly controversial and will stir up interest.

I mean, I am all for some visibility of butch people. I am all for visibility of people who come under the rubric of “female masculinity.” I am all for putting a bunch of hot people up on the internet.

There are obvious problems with this — namely, the inclusion of trans guys on this list — that I actually feel have been covered pretty well on this Feministing thread. There is a hot discussion going on on Twitter at #tophotbutches. Sinclair quotes S. Bear Bergman:

I know what butch is. Butches are not beginner FTMs, except that sometimes they are, but it’s not a continuum except when it is. Butch is not a trans identity unless the butch in questions says it is, in which case it is, unless the tranny in question says it isn’t, in which case it’s not. There is no such thing as butch flight, no matter what the femmes or elders say, unless saying that invalidates the opinion of femmes in a sexist fashion or the opinions of elders in an ageist fashion. Or if they’re right. But they are not, because butch and transgender are the same thing with different names, except that butch is not a trans identity, unless it is; see above.

– S. Bear Bergman, from “I Know What Butch Is,” the first chapter from hir book Butch Is A Noun.

So I want to leave for a minute the idea of whether trans guys have a place on this list in some large and categoric way and instead talk about something else: the importance of self-identification.

I would think, in a list about transgressive gender, the right of everyone to self-identify is SUPREMELY important. On some level, all these gender wars that my generation of queers has been having has a lot to do with the difficulty of finding a world where we all really do retain ultimate control of our identity. What does it mean to have everyone tell you you are a boy but you want to be seen a girl, only maybe you don’t want to get surgery on yr crotch? What does it mean if everyone tells you you’re a girl, and you agree, only you want to wear a moustache and ties and seersucker suits and fuck your dates with a cock you identify as yours even if you put it in a drawer at the end of the day? What if all these categories strike you as frustrating and ridiculous and damning and you want to come up with some other word for who you are? For how you want to be seen?

The liberation I am fighting for is a liberation where I don’t feel like a crazy anomaly. Where I am not second-guessing myself for wanting to put myself together the way I want at any given time. So why is it ok, in the name of more gender options, to start throwing people in categories they don’t belong to? Just because some people think “butch identity is more widely varied in range of expression and identity than is usually represented” — is that really true? Even if people don’t take that word on themselves? Aren’t we, as queers, supposed to understand the importance of self-identification?

So I definitely have problems with the lumping of trans guys into this project. But I have problems with the lumping of a lot of people into this project. Does everyone here identify as butch? Does everyone here feel they have a place with this word? Just because you are picking a transgressive word to lump everyone in doesn’t in fact mean that the lumping is itself transgressive. What does it mean to put other people into an identity they are not necessarily selecting because it’s convenient, because it’s controversial, and because you think it is more important than the identity they have themselves selected?

I admit it: I have a hard time with the word “butch” for myself. Some of that is my own butch-phobia and shitty messages I got when I was younger. Some of that is my own worries about my credibility as butch or that people won’t believe me as butch, something that I think Sinclair’s statement is even trying to address. Some of that is just feeling like that is not me — that I need some other word, and I have made those other words. Erasing those other words doesn’t feel good to me. It’s not as if I have never heard the word “butch” or that I am some exotic variant. It’s just not a word for me.

In the interest of how this post started, here’s what I think. I could see this project working if everyone on the list did identify as butch. I could see this project working if it wasn’t assigning people to a category without their permission. I could see this project working if it was named something different, something bigger — and yes, I know, the words are ugly sometimes, and that’s part of our challenge. I am curious what Sinclair says about the criticism coming from the community about the inclusion of trans guys, and this general elision of people into the word “butch.”

S. Bear Bergman hits it on the head — some trans guys do have a place on the butch spectrum. Some trans guys don’t have a place on the butch spectrum. But to be a trans guy doesn’t make you butch. To be a female-assigned person who identifies as female and likes to wear a tie doesn’t make you butch. Claiming butch makes you butch. Isn’t that what we’re all fighting for?

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today i am thinking about: THE GODDAMN RAIN
June 21, 2009, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Today’s forecast: Cloudy with periods of goddamn rain. High 71F. Winds N at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of goddamn rain 80%. Goddamn rainfall near a half an inch. (www.weather.com) I quit life.

  1. I don’t want to live in a world where New York in June is like Seattle in December.
  2. It has goddamn rained almost every day this June — 14 of the first 15 days, 15 of the first 19, and now 17 of the first 21.
  3. Here are some of the things the goddamn rain has done:
    • Knocked down a building in Ft. Greene.
    • It’s the worst June in 16 years for outdoor recreation businesses!
    • Cancelled the US Open and some golf things and goddamn rained out a lot of baseball games.
    • There must be a silver lining, right? What is it?
      • It’s one of the best Junes in 20 years for inside recreation!
      • I’m sure everyone’s gardens are really happy or something, if they’re not all drowning.
      • The White House is finally admitting: global warming!
      • Here are some songs about global warming (click to listen):
        1. “If We Had Some Global Warming”by Minnesotans for Global Warming (“If we had some global warming/We’d have some nice greenhouse effect (ever been in a greenhouse? it’s nice and hot)/If we had some global warming/Maybe we’d get some palm trees (just think! 10,000 lakes and palm trees)”)
          • Think “If I Had A Million Dollars” only not quite a satisfying parody.
            • What must it be like to play one song for 15 years now? What must it be like to do any one thing for 15 years, almost a nightly ritual? But especially on a stage, how do you keep it fresh?
        2. Jill Sobule sings at TED.
          (“I brought the iced tea, did you bring the bug spray/The flies are the size of your head/Next to the palm tree did you see the gators/Looking happy and well fed/Everyone’s out in merry/Manhattan in January”)
          • Things I would kill to do: go to TED.
        3. Vermillion Lies sings about global warming in San Francisco: “My horse will be a seahorse/My cat will be a catfish/My dog will be really wet/And I will grow some fins.”
  4. Things I am NOT doing in the goddamn rain:
    • Singing and dancing:
    • Chillin in the car I spent all day waxing
    • Enjoying any jumping fish or high cotton:
  5. “”I will not again curse the ground because of man, even though the inclination of the heart of man [is] evil from childhood. And I will not again destroy every living thing as I just did.”

I’M LOOKING AT YOU, HASHEM. I’M LOOKING AT YOU.



today i am thinking about: VEGETABLES
June 16, 2009, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

1. These are the foods I remember eating at home growing up:

  • Orange juice chicken, made by cooking a chicken with orange juice concentrate. I HATED this food.
  • Corn meal pancakes made by my dad in the morning when we didn’t have ballet or sunday school. I LOVED this food.
  • Turkey loaf from a freezer. The top half was white meat, the bottom half was dark meat, and it was a perfect rectangle. I LOVED this food.
  • Romaine salad which meant romaine lettuce cut up with maybe some carrot circles or some other random vegetable like a bell pepper. I picked out the good parts, meaning the extra vegetables. I HATED this food, unless we were lucky and had croutons or ranch dressing.
  • Turkey goosh, aka my dad’s stir fry, some variation on the following: ground turkey, bell peppers, potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, a little white wine maybe, all served over rice or cous cous or potatoes. I LOVED this food.
  • One dollar Chinese food from Magic Dragon, which was cashew chicken or honey sesame chicken. By the end of the year or so where this was all we ate, I HATED this food.
  • Turkey sandwiches: mayo, turkey, havarti or swiss, a lettuce leaf, red pepper ribbons. Sometimes with chips, even. I LOVED this food.
  • Tillamook extra sharp cheddar. I LOVED this food.
  • Eggs my dad would make, with lots of cheese and dill or basil and red pepper or carrots or onion or garlic.
  • These instant or convenience foods: rice pudding, chocolate pudding, sour cream and onion potato chips, Yoplait lemon yogurt, then later cherry or piña colada or strawberry banana.

2. These are foods I ate as a young adult, living on my own and being broke, which are still the foods I most often eat today:

  • Frozen chicken breasts from Trader Joe’s thawed and made into a quesadilla/sandwich/tortilla/salad/pasta topping/soup addition.
  • Tortillas.
  • Toast. Earth Balance > Butter was one of the great discoveries of about 2005.
  • Yogurt.
  • Chicken top ramen with spinach or broccoli, mushrooms, and an egg cracked in.
  • Eggs scrambled with spinach and cheddar cheese or mushrooms.
  • Pudding.
  • Pizza
  • Everything bagels toasted with regular or (if feeling posh!) scallion cream cheese.
  • Turkey burgers.

3. Here are some ways I know you can make vegetables:

  1. Steamed, plain.
  2. Steamed, with butter and salt.
  3. Steamed, with cheese.
  4. Raw, plain.
  5. Raw, with dipping sauce.
  6. Stirred around in a pan until wilted or soft and served.
  7. Stirred around in a pan until wilted or soft and added into eggs.
  8. Call for delivery.

4. Here are some vegetables currently in my CSA — float your mouse over them to see what they are!:

salad radishes!salad radishes! sugar peas!sugar peas! slicing beets!slicing beets! italian parsley!italian parsley!
fancy mixed greens!fancy mixed greens! green romaine lettuce!green romaine lettuce! red romaine lettuce!red romaine lettuce! baby bok choy!baby bok choy!

5. Here are some facts about the standard American diet:

6. Here are some things I know how to make with the things in my CSA:

  • ……
  • ……
  • Clearly, I have a lot to learn. Please leave a suggestion in the comments!



today i am thinking about: THE PEOPLE IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD
June 11, 2009, 12:20 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Time for another map! Click and scroll. Less sex, more childhood.

PS – it has come to my attention some of you are interested in making maps. Would you participate in an interesting-interesting sex map story-a-thon? I hope you would. I have to work out a few things and then it is ON.




today i am thinking about: RADICAL LOVE (greatest hits post)
June 9, 2009, 12:03 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I wrote this originally as my very first post on a different blog. Since I am busy seeing David Byrne and researching 70s swinger afghans and graduation percentage rates, I have lots in the hopper but not a lot ready for you. It is summer in NYC and it is so beautiful outside. I am not sure how to tolerate doing my work given that, but I will try, because I just love you so much.

So without further ado! Here it is, from early 2008. I should write a response to this, but not right now.

————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Lately I have been thinking about love. About radical love. About polyamory and nonmonogamy and the in the middles. About monogamy. About love, big love, lightning bolt love. About sex and casual sex and aftercare. All of these things about love.

1) Radical love. Falling in love with everyone. Opening your heart to beautiful things. I went to see Wendy-o-Matik talk and she was so west coast but she said some amazing things that I was ready to hear. Things about taking care of each other, of your community, of having lots of kinds of lovers and friends. That every relationship is a relationship, even if it is not what a lot of people would call a relationship. That you should honor your friends and your lovers equally, that your friends can be more important than your lovers, or can be your lovers, or not be your lovers, and that all of that is okay. That you can have snuggle friends and romantic friends and hold each other’s faces and it is not a fake relationship, it is not something to mourn or fret over — it is something to celebrate, all the delicious and infinite ways two people can fit together. Sidebar: I never thought I would use lovers seriously and OH MAN I am embarassed by myself a little.

2) Having friends that you talk to every day. Friends with whom you have ambiguous boundaries? Friends for whom you have ambiguous desires? Romantic friends that aren’t sexual but you court each other, hold each other’s faces, smoke each other’s cigarettes, participate in grand plans. Good solid friends whose babies you will diaper. Friends who are your permanent affairs behind the backs of everyone else. Friends you know you will play hearts with, drinking and swearing, at 87 years old. Friends you never see but love very deeply even when you never talk on the phone. All the different beautiful kinds of friendships and how they change and morph. It’s delicious. But what do you do about friends + desire? You work it out, right? You let nature take its course. But is that escalation ruining the friendship, or saving it? Making it right or breaking it? Can friends do that without everything changing in a negative way?

3) What do you owe the person you fuck? What do you owe the person you let fuck you? What do they owe you? Should we talk about anyone owing anyone? Is that a healthy economy ever? A true one? Why is it that “good girl” are two of the hottest and most compelling words in the English language, in the right context? What makes them so addictive? Is it wrong to find your friends who you love very much and trust very much and let them pet you back into your skin instead of the fuck who sent you so far out of it? Is that just displacing too much? Is that breaking down things too much? If we do not accept obligation as a requirement, only desire and mutual caring, are we ruining society or are we fixing it? And who tells me I’m good after I’m no longer naked, no longer sweating and swearing and coming, but in my pajamas and worrying it wasn’t okay after all?

4) I believe in lightning bolt love. I really do. Right down to the soles of my feet. I talk about polyamory and nonmonogamy but really if I found someone who lightning bolted my heart to the sky I wonder if these would become theoretical discussions. It is funny to be so full of so much of this big talk and still remember that being true to myself is acknowledging I am a big romantic when I let myself trust the emotions. I am not so tough and badass as I like to pretend. I kind of love romance. I’ve ridden subway trains for hours out of my way just to leave presents. Driven cars at 2am to say hi at lunch. I send poems.

I want to believe in big lightning love, in what happens when electricity passes through two people. It has happened before for me, and it will happen again, and until then I don’t really mind revelling in this huge and wide-open field. There is too much love here to ignore it and I want to roll in it and I guess when the lightning bolts come for me again, I will figure out what I do next. I do not feel a need to “date” as in shop around for a person to be partnery dates with. When it happens, it’ll happen, and I will not have a choice.

5) People say “Ariel, do you want to date? Who yentas the yenta?”
And I say “When it is inevitable what will be will be. Until then I want friends and I want romance and I want sex and I want it all in delicious and infinite combinations. I want to be able to be at a party and be everything I want. I want to expand endlessly. I do not want to feel any obligation to another person because of commitments I made just because I felt like I had nothing better coming.”
And they say, “You haven’t met the right person yet, have you?”
But not because they don’t understand. Because they do.

Love? Be it man. Be it woman.
It must be a wave you want to glide in on,
give your body to it, give your laugh to it,
give, when the gravelly sand takes you,
your tears to the land. To love another is something
like prayer and can’t be planned, you just fall
into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief. <– Anne Sexton understands too.



today i am thinking about: YOU WHO MADE ME GAY

When I was in third grade I had manufactured a crush because it seemed like what everyone else was doing, only I picked the wrong boy and everyone teased me. In fourth grade I forged notes to my two best friends, who were betraying me, pretending to be the least popular boy in class confessing a crush so that my two best friends would be publicly humiliated. I spent the summer between fifth and sixth grade being the ugly friend to two pretty girls who were trying to get boyfriends, I think. In seventh grade I was mad because the boy I liked was using me to get to my friend.

In seventh grade I also listened to Dan Savage’s radio show Savage Love Live. There was a woman on the show too, Mary Martone, who was a lesbian. This was so interesting to me. Somehow I knew vaguely about gay but it had not occured to me it worked for women too. I remember thinking “well, maybe that is what I am then.” Holy crap! I’m a lesbian!

I then started thinking like this: “I should find that person attractive because I am a lesbo and they look like a person a lesbo should find attractive.” I started reading and thinking like this: “Well what is hottest is butch and femme things so I should be a butch or a femme. What’s hottest is top and bottom things so I should be a top or a bottom. How will I pick? How will I know? HELP I NEED A STABLE ANSWER.” That answer was not forthcoming. I switched — I started out really invested in being butch, then I was really invested in being femme, then I was really invested in NOT being butch, and then I was invested in being a faggot and now I don’t know what I am but as I type this I am wearing lipstick and eyeliner with my tighty whities because I wanted to dress up.

Last September I actually met Mary Martone, at NOLOSE. I had to ask her if she was THAT Mary Martone and I think I made her feel awkward because you know, what do you do if some random young queer shows up at a conference you’re at and tells you that you made them gay? I mean you smile and you say that’s cool and you be gracious, which is exactly what happened. I have not met many of my queer icons because I hate the cult of meeting famous people and trying to come up with small talk. I guess I was expecting her to spout some funny lesbo advice or guidance, some kind of lesbian guru piece of wisdom. “How do I make it all fit together, Mary Martone? You told me how to fist someone. Tell me how to make it make sense.” Instead I think we made small talk about the appetizers.

These are the things that made me the gay I am today:

* Mary Martone and Dan Savage’s radio show because it actually gave me the idea;

* Sarah Schulman‘s book Girls Visions and Everything because it taught me about dreaming and walking around and envisioning a new future;

* Ani Difranco because I grew up in the mid-90s and this was mandatory;

* Bill T. Jones because he writes about art that is fierce and honest and insistent;

* Tavia Lee the girl who did not quite take my virginity and broke my heart (see the sex map!);

* Stone Butch Blues because it taught me about butch and femme and honoring your partner;

* The Ethical Slut because it taught me that love should be expansive and family is what you make it.

I know there is this great divide amongst the queers between the gays who want marriage and the gays who want something new; between the people who think we exist as outlaws and the people who have no desire to be outlaws, or rather who want to be fully accepted despite their outlaw behavior. Maybe that is me too but I have such a hard time with it. Is my primary statement a statement about genital attraction — these parts make me hot, these parts do not make me hot? No, it can’t be. It is more complicated than that. Is my primary statement about gender attraction — maybe, partially, I can organize my attractions that way in a way I can’t organize my attractions around parts. Is my primary statement about power attraction, power and gender attraction — maybe that is closer to the truth. I like people who wear power a certain way and who wear gender a certain way.

Or maybe the truth is several certain ways. I have always wanted to fight for stability and comprehensibility in my internal self and in my desires. I want to be A Femme or A Butch or A Top or A Bottom and maybe that is just not how it is. I want to be comprehensible and maybe I am learning right now that the way to comprehensibility isn’t forcing the parts to conform to a norm but instead letting it all hang out. I feel so scared every time I am pushed to let go because I do not know what (if anything) there is to catch me if I fall. I think about Bill T. Jones’ book, this love story about him and Arnie Zane and art and hurting and letting go and watching the man you love the most die. I think about how ephemeral everything is, that you cannot control everything. I think about all the brave queers out there who have fought before me and made it work, somehow, despite the damage.

I am reading Carol Queen’s The Leather Daddy and the Femme for the first time. Randy/Miranda is blowing my brain because I am seeing a vision of some other way to be a person. I just read the part where Jack says this:

You love somebody as long as you love them. If they love you back, that’s gravy. You cherish what you have until it changes, goes away, or you die. It’s real simple.

I want it to be that simple. I want to trust it is that simple. I want to believe in love that can change and does not have to be controlled. I want permission to be brave and incoherent. Maybe Mary Martone will write me a permission slip and then I can finally, finally, give it a try.