things to think about

today i am thinking about: heterosexual, homogender
September 5, 2009, 1:08 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

I have thought at great length about the difference between homo homos and hetero homos — you know, homos who date people whose genders are like theirs vs homos who date people whose genders are different from theirs. I identify as a hetero homo usually — whomever I am dating, their gender is different (oppositional is harder to say) than mine. I like the difference. I like gender roles. You get the gist.

I am in Kalamazoo, MI today and it is funny to be here where I am the only queer as far as the eye can see. I keep thinking people (ok, girls) are flirting with me but I think everyone’s just really nice. It’s always funny to get out of New York City but I love the midwest just a little bit.

And so I am surrounded by family and locals, and they are straight people, and today I am thinking about gender. Not homo gender, but hetero gender for once. I am going to theorize wildly, and you know what, I am not going to feel bad about it, because I am sure everyone has been theorizing about me all day long. My queer friends and I are all slightly gender-obsessed; we think about it and play with it and analyze it and get overwhelmed by it and have sex with it and mess around with gender all day long. But I don’t know if straight people do this too, see, and right now I am fascinated by heterosexual gender phenomena.

This is the thing: there are a lot of matching heteros in my family. Heteros where they wear the same clothes, have the same aesthetic, even sometimes the same hair. I wonder how they think about this; I wonder how they talk about this. I was wandering around Target (I needed sunscreen) and there were so many married couples who, well, matched. Just like matching homos! But different, right? How do heterosexuals think about this?

Taking this in, I realized was that I was programmed to see this as a failure, especially on the part of the woman. The whole “letting themselves go” thing, right? These married couples matching must mean that they’ve failed, that they’re not hot for each other any more. I guess part of this is that they are all low-fi matching, not all fabulous and dressed up (I am very excited to see what everyone wears to synagogue tomorrow). But why do I interpret this similarity as a failure and a capitulation where I interpret other gender-synchronicity — the queer kind — as kind of cute and great?

I am really curious about what it is to operate in the hetero gender world. They don’t talk about gender like I do, or like my friends do; at least it doesn’t seem like it. Do the women who are not so feminine feel like failures? Do these men who are not so masculine feel like failures? Do they feel bad for not playing into the world of opposites?

Sometimes I am curious about dating heterosexually but I just can’t imagine how it would work. I could date other queers, but I cannot imagine my gender in a completely heterosexual paradigm. I feel like I would be unintelligible. I am always curious to find out if that is true but I do not even know how to begin testing (and I mean, I’m not REALLY) that curious. I would pay a million dollars to know if people here in Kalamazoo are even aware of my gender, or what they think about it, or even if they CAN think about it or if it is just unintelligible — just like a lot of their genders are to me. I want to know more about straight people gender! Straight people, do you talk about this? Think about this? Date people with genders like you (I mean, aside from being “man” vs “woman”) or people with genders not like you? CAN you date someone “opposite” from you who is still the same? Do you think different genitals (if your genitals are different) are what make you hetero, or is it something else?

Please comment about this! And please tell your heterosexual friends about this post. INQUIRING MINDS NEED TO KNOW.

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.

today i am thinking about: PERSONAL MASCULINITY
May 19, 2009, 7:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

I am not sure this kind of writing is interestinginteresting appropriate. There is a normal interestinginteresting post coming tomorrow or the next day, and it’s related, but I feel like posts about queer masculinity don’t exist very much in the blogosphere. So I am answering Sinclair’s call and ruminating a little bit. Part two, the analysis, will be up tomorrow.

I want to be a good man when I grow up. This means I want to be fair, strong, and mean what I say. This means I want to be known for my integrity and good ethics. It means I want to always say what I believe and have the courage to stand up for my convictions. It means I want to take care of the people I know and love and help them when things are hard. I want to be generous. I want to be kind. I want to be tender when needed but also fierce when appropriate. The kind of person you want to have around your kids. The kind of person who doesn’t give too much but always gives enough. In control of my emotions but not afraid of them. A little bit lecherous but in the way that feels good all around, not gross and objectifying. A good man, the kind of guy you ask for advice when you want to hear the hard thing but you want to know it’s said in love. A man of steel and velvet.

Click on that link and take a look. It’s a book written by Dr. Andelin, the husband of Helen Andelin of Fascinating Womanhood fame. It’s a book about how men are the strong pillars of granite around which women flit like butterflies. It espouses the exact same things I want to be. A provider. Efficient. Capable. Trustworthy. Strong. Dependable. I want to use my power to support everyone else’s own personhood. I want to be a good man. And yet I don’t have a model for what that looks like, not enough of one. I say these things and I feel like Dr. Andelin, some jerk reiterating the same sexist stereotypes. I don’t cook but I let people cook for me. I don’t care about tchotchkes but I appreciate other people’s. I talk about “girls” as my desire objects and I do mean objects and I do it in reductive ways. I like to be pandered to in this gendered way, quietly, although I’d never say it out loud. I want points for not being a douche, the kind of dude points dudes get when they manage to not be total assholes. I do not trust my own lack of misgyny. I do not trust my own ethics in this regard.

Because what makes that being a man? What makes that mean I want to be a man? Why do I locate this outside of femininity, outside of womanhood? Women are strong, and competent, and ethical, and providers, and in control, and all of these things that I am listing out. Why do I suddenly list myself outside of this category? Why does it feel so weird to be called a woman? Why do I say I want to be a man? Isn’t it better to fight against these stereotypes, to hold the space that I have been placed into by virtue of my vagina?

It wasn’t always like this. I was femme for a long time, back in Seattle. I wanted to dress up like someone’s doll and be taken care of. I wanted someone to treat me like a treasure, and I read these books, Stone Butch Blues, everything Leslea Newman ever wrote, these book about this brave dangerous love with femmes who tended and butches strong like pillars. I was a teenager who had to be an adult so soon and the idea that there might be a strong butch to take care of me, put her arms around me and treat me like a prize, that was porn for my crotch and porn for my heart. I wanted it so badly and it never happened. Did I just give up? Did I just grow up? Do I have some stone wall around me now? How do I honor that person I was and still be the person I am?

Because I like who I am. I am loud, I am strong, I am learning to take up space, and for once I don’t feel I am doing it wrong. I think I am doing it just right. I feel hot, I dress the way I want to dress, and I feel coherent. I feel sturdy. I feel like this is the person I am supposed to be, this competent person who gets it together, who says what she believes, who wears a tie to dress up. Who knows how to tie a tie, what kind of tie to wear when, and who is always dressed correctly. I feel more correct in this role at this time than I have previously in other roles at other times. I think I am being the person I want to become.

I don’t mean I want to be a man in a trans way. I don’t want to take testosterone, get surgery, change pronouns, change names. I am who I am and I like who I am and how I am in the world. I don’t want to be a boi — I want to be a man. An adult. A success. And I can’t help but feel that that is some lack of imagination on my part, that if I was more flexible or queer and less invested in rigidity that I would be able to create some kind of identity that wasn’t so bound up in oppressive gender norms and normativity and heterosexism and all of these fucked up things I am trying to create.

Because what about butch, right? That is a word with a history and an honor behind it. But there is something about the word butch that I find incredibly challenging. Do I want to be a butch? A butch woman? Someone’s butch? The answer is no, or maybe not right now, and I don’t know why. Every answer I have is fucked up, has to do with my own biases. My mom, when I was younger: I don’t care if you’re gay, just don’t be the butch one. The rigidity of a certain kind of masculinity that I don’t feel applies. I don’t feel like that history is my history. In so many ways it applies, but I just can’t do it and I figure it has to do with my own anti-butch biases. I pay attention to the masculinity I wear, I am light in my loafers, I tie my tie with a different knot depending on the situation. None of these things disqualify me from being butch, none of these things have anything to do with butch or not butch, some of the butchest people I know do these things. Here I am being an asshole — I AM BEING AN ASSHOLE, INTERNET — and coming back to these things again and again as reasons I cannot possibly be butch. I still want to be a peacock — not a peahen, a peacock. (Look at the difference!) And I don’t want people to look at the girl I am seeing — who is femme — and wonder if she’s satisfied with what I give her. I don’t want to challenge people’s beliefs about what is or isn’t possible. I am not interested in being an outlaw. It just seems to work out that I qualify, and I admit it: it makes me uncomfortable.

I put this very squarely on myself and my own rigidity. Part of being this adult I want to be, this man, is learning how to be flexible. I have not accepted that there are some basic ways I like to hold my space that run counter to the way America expects me to run my life. Presenting like this scares the shit out of me — I keep waiting for someone to walk up to me and declare me a failed woman, someone who couldn’t get it together, too hairy, too stocky, too strong, too loud, too all these same damn things that misogyny tells me I shouldn’t be. I worry THAT is why I want to be a good man when I grow up, secretly, under all the other reasons — because no one in mainstream America will look at me, as a woman, and judge me a success.

So much for radical new gender norms.