Archive for October, 2007

why i dig trans guys (and why some people don’t): six explanations
October 31, 2007

This post is in response to two comments people posted a couple of posts back: Riley’s question asking for “a way to explain why it is queer women are more into the transdudes than the queer men are” and to Curious’s question “Why does it seem like there are a lot of women who usually date women who are willing if not eager to date ftm transsexuals yet who are as just as unwilling to date men. Why one and not the other? Is it somehow related to the fact that (I don’t know the exact numbers) many transsexual men don’t have surgery? What does this say about the nature (perhaps not the best word) of transsexuals?”
 
Two quick answers to Riley’s question: sexism and cock.

1. Sexism: Many, though certainly not all, gay men are as much purveyors of good old-fashioned sexism as their hetero counterparts, but they have the added bonus of not being sexually attracted to women, which allows them the privilege of considering female body parts to be “eeewwww disgusting” without anyone really calling them on the misogyny behind that. That disgust then translates to a squick about female parts, regardless of the gender identity of the person attached to them. Even when they’re attracted to that person. Trust me. I’m not a trans guy and I’ve still had a lot of gay guys get really into me… until it comes time to think about the pink bits, and then they run away. That ties directly into…

2. Cock. Most gay guys are really into cock. If a person doesn’t have a cock, then sexually speaking some gay dudes just don’t know what to do with them. Often, despite its many advantages over the flesh and blood sort, a silicone cock is not enough to convince them that there is a bona fide cock/guy in the room with them. With the notable exception of fisting, the gay male sexual repertoire is just so highly focused on cock (how big, how long, cut or uncut, what can you do with it, what will you let me do with it, etc.) that any variation on that particular appendage can cause anxiety – let alone the presence of someone whose appearance is fully male but who is missing the all-important organ. Believe me, if given the chance, I would be more than happy to demonstrate to any number of gay men that my non-organic cock is fully capable of providing them with whatever penetrative satisfaction they desire, with the sole exception of cum-swallowing (which in the age of AIDS is always questionable anyway), and that I get off on having mine played with as much as, if not more than, anyone who grew theirs at birth. Sign up here, guys. I come in three sizes to boot (and I’m full of double entendres too). Anyone?… Anyone?…

None of this is intended to slag gay men as a whole… but it is my speculative point of view on the trend that Riley, and many trannyfag friends of mine, have noticed. I’d definitely welcome comments from gay men who may have other ideas on this point!

Beyond the two quick answers, here are a few deeper ones that may address Curious’s questions more specifically.

3. Gender politics. The vast majority of dykes have done a lot of thinking about gender – not as a rule but definitely as a rule of thumb. It’s really hard to get to the point of being a dyke in this day and age, or a sexually liberated woman of any orientation, without having to come to some sort of feminist consciousness, and feminism does a lot of work towards challenging ideas about gender – raising the question of who is allowed to display what behaviours and appearances and engage in what activities, etc. based on their pink bits or the letter on their birth certificate. I mean, Simone de Beauvoir was saying that women are “made not born” in the 1950s. So women are old hat at reconsidering the meanings of gender, and when you extrapolate that into dyke lives, even more so.

Now, gay men play with gender too, to be sure – I wouldn’t deny that. But it comes from a different place. Gay guys play with gender in ways that have nothing (necessarily) to do with feminism or body politics or anything; they tend to be much more drawn towards camp and drag and other such strategies for challenging gender stereotypes, but they’re coming at it from a place of male privilege, not of being on the short end of the gender stick in the first place. Plus, despite all the gender challenging that some gay men do – and I don’t mean to minimize the relevance of that work – there’s still a ton of femme-phobia within gay male culture, and a huge overvaluing of hyper-masculine butch gender presentation. There’s a long history of drag queens and femme men being acceptable on stage but rejected once off it, whether in the clubs or in the personals or elsewhere. But I digress.

And that ties in with explanation 4: History.

On the flip side, the dyke world has historically always included room for “passing women” and other such identities – perhaps conflicted room, or room that varies depending on the cultural climate of a given decade (read Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues), but room nonetheless. There is no historical equivalent to the “passing woman” in gay male culture. (Judith Halberstam unpacks the non-parallels between drag queen culture and lesbian drag king culture really well and brings up this specific point about passing women in her book Female Masculinity, which I’m going to review here soon.)

Basically, there is a centuries-long history of dykes dating female-bodied men. The idea is nothing particularly new even if the medical/surgical technologies and identity labels are. So nowadays, while there’s definitely been a “border war” (in Halberstam’s terms) in the past decade between butch dykes and FTMs, and lots of wrangling on all sides (“we’re losing our butches!” vs “FTMs were never truly female to begin with!”), the truth is that in practical terms nowadays it makes a lot of sense that many contemporary dyke spaces and/or dykes themselves are FTM-friendly, whereas a lot of contemporary gay male spaces are only barely beginning to understand that trans folks even exist.

(There’s a whole other question about dyke spaces being MTF-friendly, and certainly some places have a long way to go on that count, but even then the discussions are a) taking place at all and b) largely informed by feminism—whether a person’s resulting stance is pro or con, or perhaps rather whether their particular brand of feminism is progressive or firmly stuck in the second wave—and the conclusions, more and more, are “yes, trans women are women and they are welcome here.” Feminism provides a starting place for those discussions to take place, whereas in gay male spaces, that sort of conversation is simply not nearly as common.)

On to point number 5: Socialization and attraction.

On a personal or visceral level, I can say that dating an FTM guy is a completely different ball game than dating a male-bodied guy, and it’s got very little to do with the body parts and a whole lot to do with socialization. (Of course not all FTM guys are the same; far from it. I’m talking in trends and generalities here, not intending to describe all trans guys as falling into the exactly the same mould.)

I don’t like the way most male-born men are socialized, period. The whole male privilege thing seeps into things with a disturbing degree of perniciousness, even among a lot of generally thoughtful, feminist men, and it’s just a major turn-off. This doesn’t mean I never date men, it just means that it takes a highly exceptional one to make it through my anti-male-privilege filters – and I don’t sit there with a checklist or act as behaviour police, it’s just a vibe. It often means that I date male-born-men who are queer and highly feminine, not because the femme aesthetic holds any particular appeal to me per se, but because these are the guys who have most often experienced gender difference from the inside out, and the oppression (and joy) of having an alternative sexual orientation, so they are most likely to be able to relate to my own politics and personal take on such things, and to understand the way my sexuality works.

When it comes to trans guys, if I were to encounter one who were socialized like a male-born man, or who had adopted a traditional form of masculinity without questioning or tweaking it, I’d probably be fairly uninterested in him, much as I am uninterested in male-bodied men who do the same. One of the things I personally find most attractive, on the theoretical level, about trans masculinity is precisely that it questions and challenges traditional masculinity, and in many cases expands it and redefines it entirely. I know that sounds very theory-head, but it plays out in super-practical everyday ways… it’s not just intellectual musings, it’s my lived experience of being intimate with people who have chosen male embodiment and yet who continually refuse to adopt the package deal of what masculinity is supposed to mean. That, to me, is refreshing and intellectually stimulating and politically appealing and just plain hot.

For a person who finds masculinity attractive but who either finds the specifics of male-born-male bodies to be unattractive (not my case – dude bodies are just fine in my books) or who finds the socialization question to be sufficiently high to turn them off male-born men (whether entirely or as a rule of thumb), a trans guy may represent the one kind of man they might actually connect with. Then you can also consider that a fairly high percentage of FTM guys have experienced a fair chunk of their lives as dykes, and so share a common cultural language and community connections with dykes and queer women, often including social circles and so forth… and it makes perfect sense that a lot of queer gals would find themselves dating trans men.

As for Curious’s surgery question… It’s true that a lot of trans guys don’t get bottom surgery (phalloplasty), for many reasons, the biggie being that surgical techniques are not advanced enough to guarantee results. But to be honest, I don’t know too many queer women who make their decisions about dating trans men specifically based on whether or not they’ve had surgery, so I can’t imagine that’s a major factor per se. I’ve also never met a trans man who’s had bottom surgery, so that too plays into my answer—I have no grounds for comparison.

I don’t think I can say anything about “the nature of transsexuals” here, either—to do so would be a) pretty presumptuous of me as a non-trans person and b) bound to be seriously flawed no matter what I might come up with. So I think I’ll leave my responses as they are. I don’t expect them to be universal, but they’re my take based on a lot of personal experience (my own and that of my community), reading, watching films, and years of thinking. 

I am, of course, very much open to comments, criticisms, further questions and ideas.

cultural curiosity: pink japan
October 30, 2007

As promised, I’m going to attempt to give a summary of Midori’s “Pink Japan” talk from last week in Toronto. As a good little sex geek, I took notes… lots of notes.

For starters, it’s worth saying that I’m not sure that a summary is really possible. Basically, Midori’s got a highly unique take on things because of the very nature of who she is. She’s an intellectual but not an academic; an educator but not a lecturer; a performer but not an entertainer. In addition, her perspective on the topic of Japanese sexual culture is informed by her own upbringing—she was raised in a feminist intellectual household located in a working-class neighbourhood outside Tokyo—and her life in San Francisco, where she’s a person of German-American-Japanese origin who makes her living as a world-travelling sexuality educator and kink writer. Add that all together and she’s got quite the eclectic range of cultural references to draw upon.

In fact I think that’s what made the presentation so interesting. Beyond the bare information she conveyed and the entertaining stories she told, I was completely charmed to notice the places where Japanese sex culture made sense to her and the places she, as a Westernized person, found it confusing.

I think most of us, when spending time in countries and among cultures other than our own, tend to do a lot of comparing. Our understandings of “otherness” are necessarily filtered through our experiences and the cultures we come from. So, for example, when I come to the States I find it fascinating to note the differences. Different accents, different products in stores (they don’t have ketchup chips here, and their yogurt is just plain disgusting, but organic food is readily available all over the place), different assumptions based on the ways our governments and social structures run (health care, for example), different approaches to language (French is considered exotic – hee hee! – but Spanish is not – hmm!), different attitudes (the racism I see in major American cities is heaps more overt, pervasive and visible than I ever see in Canada), different opportunities (education costs a fortune here; queers can’t get married; etc., etc.) and so forth. Of course, mores around sexuality and relationships are high on the list of what I notice, and probably would all the more so in countries that don’t bear as strong a cultural resemblance to one another as Western ones do—not that they’re all the same by any stretch.

For someone like Midori, though, her cultural references lie in two places. Well, doubtless more than two at this point, but two main ones: Japan and the States. So she sees some elements of Japanese sexual culture from the inside out, and some from the outside in, and some in a hybrid fashion that really serves to show her own cultural multiplicity. It was endlessly amusing, and intriguing, to see where those lines were drawn for her.

Case in point: she explained a major cultural difference in fascinating terms, saying that when it comes to sex, in Western society our sexuality is influenced by guilt and in Japan it’s influenced by shame. In her words, “Shame is horizontal; guilt is vertical. Guilt is about an omniscient higher power watching your every move, with sexuality and other behaviours being judged. Shame is a failure to fulfill social obligations with regard to your peers, your social circle, your hive.” With this model in mind, she talked about how Judeo-Christian guilt is pervasive, and follows a person everywhere, whereas in Japan, shame only occurs when someone infringes on another person’s socially sanctioned privacy.

According to her, this plays out, for example, in Japan’s famed “love hotels,” where a person’s (or rather, a couple’s) entire experience of checking in, using the facilities and checking out can take place without the clients ever having a face-to-face meeting with another human being. It’s not shameful to use these locations to have illicit (or simply private) sex, it’s just shameful to be seen to use these locations. So they are entirely designed to preserve the clients’ anonymity, including a parking lot with curtains hanging to about waist level so that a person’s face is never seen when they step outside their car. Fascinating.

Midori also attacked a common Western perception that Japan is a country of pedophiles. She explained that there is definitely a cultural eroticization and fetishization of “cute” but that this is more like eroticizing the concept of “innocence verging on sexual knowledge” rather than an indication of any particular sexual interest in children. She drew the comparison to Western porn, in which unrealistically huge-breasted starlets are made out to be both extremely wanton and sexually knowledgeable—not particularly reflective of the average woman, who doesn’t look or act like a porn star, and not reflective of the sort of person that most hetero men end up dating or marrying.

All that being said, she expressed her downright confusion at some of the outfits being sold in sex shops there—stiff, ruffled, demure maids’ outfits that look nothing like the “sexy French maid” things you might see here, but rather more like something out of a Gothic European manor. It fits with the culture and she seems to get it on an intellectual level but in gut-level terms, as a woman steeped in North American sex culture, much like the rest of the folks in the lecture hall, she just doesn’t seem to grok how this stuff is sexy.

Here are a few other interesting tidbits:

  • Despite the Western idea of Japanese people being extremely kinky, there is no Japanese word for SM. She showed photos of signs written entirely in Japanese with the letters “SM” appearing here and there. “This taxonomy was developed in the 19th century by white European men, so it has simply been lifted directly.” This is not, of course, to say that nobody in Japan practices BDSM or other forms of kinky sex; simply that the specifics of contemporary SM subcultural identity are a Western construction based on the pathologizing/categorizing vocabulary created by folks like Richard von Krafft-Ebing and used by sexologists ever since – a vocabulary that has evolved specifically in the West.
  • In Japan, pre-worn underwear can be purchased in packages, ready for sniffing or jacking off. There are establishments set up with televisions, magazines, exercise machines for working up a bit of a sweat; girls can go there and put on a fresh pair of new underwear, provided by the company, and hang out while their scent permeates the fabric. Then they take off the panties, hand them over, get paid and leave. It’s considered a form of sex work. Wow. Pretty fascinating how different cultures come up with entirely different forms of sex work—not that there’s no market for panty-sniffing in the West, but we certainly don’t have a quasi-institutionalized setup for it. I wonder if they have things like Montreal’s adult-baby-fetish “dungeon” in Tokyo.
  • You know those weird sex toys called Fleshlights – the ones that look like a woman’s mouth, made of purple jelly, parked on top of something that resembles a large metal thermal coffee cup? They’re basically jack-off cups. Well, in Japan they have a disposable version that’s pre-lubed and fully microwaveable, for that “realistic” feeling. There’s a Japanese term for them, but they’re also commonly known there as “Dutch wives.” I do not know what this says about the Japanese perception of Dutch women, and neither does Midori. I do wonder when the shops here will start carrying them.
  • Not that this is particular to sexual culture, but Midori mentioned that Western words (from her slides I’d say English mostly, but also French, Italian and Spanish) are considered trendy in Japan, much the way that Japanese and other Asian language characters are trendy in the West in the form of clothing prints, tattoos and other such things. In her words, “cultural misappropriation is rampant on both sides of the pond.” I’d love to pick her brain sometime about the nuances of that—for example, when we’re talking about a white-dominant culture that misappropriates Asian cultural symbols, is there an inherent power differential to be considered that doesn’t apply the same way when an Asian culture misappropriates Western cultural and linguistic symbols? And would the answer depend on the location where the misappropriation is happening, or is it independent of geography? I’d be curious to hear her take.

I’m not going to write out my full detailed notes from her talk, partly because I don’t want to give a full play-by-play of someone else’s teaching work, partly because that would turn into a seven-page post, and partly because you should really go see it yourself when you have the chance. Hearing my version of her stuff is not the same as getting it from the source, not to mention she’s got a bunch of slides to illustrate her points and a table full of sexually-oriented materials produced in Japan (from comics to sex-club ads to gay pride pamphlets) that definitely serves to punctuate and enhance the things she talks about. Plus, she’s intending to update it with new photographs and information every time she makes a visit home, so a few months from now the whole presentation might look really different.

In any case, “Pink Japan: Contemporary Sex Culture” was definitely an interesting evening, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s interested in such topics. I’d be intrigued to see sex educators from other cultural backgrounds do similar stuff… ethnographic work and the fields of culturally specific sociology and anthropology so often seem to shy away from analyzing these things, but sexuality is an incredibly interesting microcosmic canvas for the expression of a culture’s quirks and particularities that I can’t help thinking that it’s a major loss for people to leave it out of academic discussions. Food for thought indeed!

a little bag o’ news… this time live from boston
October 29, 2007

Can anyone come forward with cloning technology? Please? ‘Cuz really, I’m in need here.

I am currently hanging out in the wilds of Boston, Massachusetts, a mere few blocks from the intellectual epicentre of Harvard and MIT (I can practically feel the brainwaves wafting across the city!), spending a few days with my honey Pepper who’s here on business from San Fran. At this very moment, we were supposed to be shootin’ the shit with a poly dyke from Munich who’s also visiting this fine town, and who’s a member of a poly dyke group there. But unfortunately, the purple-haired boy is flat on his back with the flu, and so I’m catching up on my e-mail and we’ve got a lunch date with the poly dyke on Thursday. An international meeting of poly queers… mmmmm. Makes me happy just thinking about it. I promise I’ll post something about the discussion once it happens.

Meanwhile, my friend nouveau*queer is taking in a film at McGill for Divergence Movie Night – a documentary entitled 533 Statements which interviews 20 Canadian queer women coast-to-coast about what it’s like to be queer where they live. How cool is that? I really, really wish I could be in two places at once. Like really. Grumble.

I will just have to console myself by spending inordinate amounts of time in bookstores – apparently Boston has the nation’s highest number of bookstores per capita – and hanging out with cool people here. People like my friends M&M, two members of the fabulous fat burlesque troupe Big Moves. If you didn’t catch their performance at this past weekend’s Meow Mix, you most definitely must try to attend their next one. For the moment they’re focused on their new show, LARD: Like Grease Only Thicker, which is playing in New York this coming weekend. Hawt! And totally hilarious.

In other news, the taping of my poly interview on “2 Filles le matin” went well. The scary mascara lady was remarkably compliant when I asked her to hold off on the goopy eye stuff. Apparently others have made the same request; she informed me that her last long-lashed guest told her that mascara made her “avoir l’air d’un tournesol” (look like a sunflower), so there was no argument. But when I left the TV studio and looked at my face in a shop window not far off, I cringed… I was a rather frightening shade of orange, which I’m sure looked just fine under studio lights but which made me feel like clawing off a layer of my epidermis in the daylight world. Luckily I was able to drop in on the fine folks at the fab lesbo boutique Mad-Âme, where the lovely Amy kindly allowed me the use of her bathroom. (“Oh my god, why are you so, um, made up today?” “Tell you in a minute! Where’s your soap? Quick, quick!”) Fifteen Kleenexes, two face washes and some moisturizer later, I was back to my usual shade of sickly Caucasian. What a relief.

I always find that television spots go by way too quickly to really engage in-depth with the subject at hand, so while I feel the interview went reasonably well, I don’t feel like it’ll be enough to change anyone’s basic feelings about non-monogamy versus monogamy. Perhaps it will inspire a few people to ask further questions, mind you. One can hope. If you’re interested in catching the show, it airs on TVA on Tuesday morning (October 30) from 9 to 10. If anyone decides to tape it, let me know – I don’t watch TV and I doubt the station would come through in Boston anyway.

Upcoming happy stuff: Image+Nation, queer film fest extraordinaire, has a preliminary program up along with the “lite” version of their 2007 site. No major synopses yet, but heads up: they’re hosting a film symposium on November 16 and 17. Woo-hoo! Geekdom for the 20th anniversary!

And for those who are a fan of kick-ass rock/pop music by super-sexy trannies and queers, you may want to mark your calendars for November 3, when Toronto-based group The Cliks comes to town (Montreal that is). I had the very enjoyable task of interviewing their frontman, Lucas Silveira, late last week after staying up until 3 a.m. on a music-listening marathon with their new CD, Snakehouse, which remains on heavy rotation in my player. Anyway, the interview comes out this coming Thursday in the Mirror – I’ll post a link when it’s up. While I’m at it, I will also answer the question posted by a commenter not too long ago, about why queer women seem so readily interested in dating trans guys. Well, “answer” in the sense that I’ll happily give my own perspective, not in that I know why every person dating an FTM guy finds him attractive.

That’s about all the fun stuff I have to say today. With Pepper ill, I may well end up doing a lot of reading while I’m here, so you may be in for some more book reviews among other things… you’ve been duly warned! But right now, I’m going to make some dinner for a cute purple-haired geek with a sensitive tummy.

colouring outside the lines
October 25, 2007

It never rains, but it pours… today my profile appeared in Chris Barry’s very cool column in the Montreal Mirror (check it out here if you’re interested). Whee! Tomorrow at 4 I’m speaking on a McGill University panel on diversity in the queer community – check my Workshops section for details if you want to show up, it’d be lovely to see some familiar faces in the crowd! And then I got a call from a reporter last night, and tomorrow morning I’m going to be interviewed in studio for the French-language TV show “2 Filles le matin”, which airs on TVA every weekday from 9 to 10. They want me to talk to them about polyamory. (I’m not sure when it airs but I’ll post when I find out.)

That last one inspired quite a thought process, which of course I felt I should write about, so here it is…

The show researchers found my name because a couple of years ago, I was interviewed for Châtelaine magazine (the French-language version) about polyamory as part of an article on “different” ways of doing relationships. It was an interesting experience, and one I’ve frequently thought about since. Especially the photo shoot, in which I had to set some firm limits with the make-up artist (“Do NOT come near me with that mascara! Okay, maybe just a bit, but now STOP!”), and in which the photographer looked at me and guilelessly thanked me for “not being ugly” (?!) before he went on to sigh and moan about how reporters don’t consider the attractiveness of their interview subjects before talking with them, and how difficult that makes his job sometimes. I don’t remember if that was before or after he asked if I’d be willing to take off my shirt for the photos. His artistic concept was doubtless intended to be tasteful, since this was a mainstream mag and not a porn rag, but nonetheless I was the only poly girl to be interviewed and somehow, in his mind, that made it appropriate for him to attempt to have me show skin when none of the other subjects did. Yowza. Hello, mainstream media. Needless to say, I kept my shirt on. And buttoned all the way up. The idea of showing skin isn’t scary to me, but the idea of a reader associating poly with cleavage just seemed to fall into the realm of titillation rather than education.

The vast majority of the speaking gigs I do and interviews I give are aimed at a fairly queer and/or kinky audience, and that’s a place where I feel at home, comfortable, and fairly sure that I’ll be understood. (At the very least they don’t care about whether or not I plucked my eyebrows that morning, and won’t be asking me to disrobe while I make my points.) It’s not that the people attending my workshops are necessarily in the same place as I am, either politically or personally, when it comes to sexuality and relationships; but we do tend to have a common language and at least fall within a similar range of cultural reference points. When I use the word “queer” nobody wonders what I mean, for example. We all know that it’s a fluid and umbrella-like term that each of us can define for ourselves, and while the specifics can be intriguing to tease out, the general idea is loosely assumed and that’s pretty much fine.

When I speak to a more mainstream audience, though, things quickly get a lot more… interesting. It’s easy to do education work for other queers from that place of comfort; it’s a lot more challenging to educate a mass audience of middle-aged heterosexual women who read popular glossy magazines and watch morning television. If my past Châtelaine experience dictates, they’ll be totally open-minded, even eager – we do live in a tolerant society, after all – but culturally they’re just vastly different from me.

This is not a bad thing. In fact it’s quite good as I always treasure the opportunity to feed the minds of people who aren’t already exposed to alternative ideas, but it definitely takes me outside of my comfort zone and makes me stretch. I always find myself facing a plethora of questions of what to say and how to say it so that people can actually hear it – walking the line between not wanting to give them anything with which to create a potentially sensationalized interpretation and yet wanting to educate; wanting to be accessible as an educator to people outside the world of politically conscious queers and yet not wanting to leave pieces of myself behind as I go or make myself “palatable” in a way that compromises the values and politics I’m standing for in the first place.

Sexual orientation is often the first place where the questions come up. “Bisexual” is an idea that most people can handle – they might have a set of prejudices to go along with it, but they at least have a basic understanding that a bisexual person is interested in both men and women. But my bisexuality doesn’t look much like the bisexuality that would be the next step out from the heterosexual mainstream. I’m not a straight-leaning heterosexually-married traditionally feminine woman with a traditionally feminine lover on the side – nothing wrong with that, it’s just inaccurate when applied to me. And when I talk about being bisexual in the context of polyamory – and I refuse to not mention it, because otherwise I’ll be presumed straight – a mainstream interview audience will plug me into that model, which happens to be the closest available one but which doesn’t fit at all.

When I talk about dating “men” and “women” it’s not untrue, it’s just that my definitions of those terms are completely different than the accepted standard. Most of the men / guys / boys / bois I am or have been involved with were born in female bodies, and the ones born in male bodies don’t exactly hold up the cultural norm of the gender identity that’s supposed to match with their physical selves. Most of the women / gals / girls / gyrls I am or have been involved with bend their genders way into the territory of masculinity, or were born in male bodies and take on femininity from a completely different angle than the norm. And then there are those wonderful people whose pronouns and/or presentations shift around the spectrum, or whose bodies never fit into the simplistic boxes of “male” or “female” in the first place. So as a person who dates from within this fantastic pool of individuals, when it comes to naming my orientation, I colour way outside the lines of the classic understanding of “bisexual,” even with the lavender overlap between the pink and blue bars on the flag.

How the hell do I convey that richness to an audience that watches “2 Filles le matin”? It would take an undergrad survey course to even begin. And yet, how do I stop from gritting my teeth when people make mistaken assumptions?

And that’s just the question of sexual orientation. Never mind the concept of poly itself. Most people out there have some idea that not everyone is monogamous. But the relationship model the mainstream world starts from is one of heterosexual monogamy, and then it presumes that everything else must necessarily be a step out from there. But the terms and foundations of queer poly are just so culturally different from those of straight poly that sometimes even when we speak the same words they come from two sides of a gaping chasm.

My poly is not a variation on hetero monogamy; it’s a completely different creature born of a completely different set of parameters about relationships. Queers, even the monogamous ones, fuck with the standard definitions. Our relationships often flow from friendship to sexual relationship to romance to being exes and back again. This doesn’t mean we have no boundaries, or that we have poor ones, or that we’re constantly confused. It just means that the relatively small pool of people within which we are likely to find our relationships of any description holds a multiplicity of possibilities, and each relationship holds that multiplicity, and it’s up to us to assess and define each one based on its merits rather than on the usual criteria of gender segregation, strict boxes and easy assumptions. And the smallness of that pool (the whole “two degrees of separation” thing) means that the same person may take on very different roles in our lives over the course of a given relationship. All of this combined makes us conscious of relationship nuances in a way that others don’t always have to be.

So for me, poly is a profoundly queer philosophy – it’s a logical extension of that multiplicity of possibilities, where instead of saying that as soon as one possibility blossoms into a romantic relationship the others must be dropped, I simply allow each possibility to blossom into whatever it naturally wants to be. And that means sometimes I’ve been single, sometimes I’ve had a primary partner and a couple of lovers, sometimes I’ve had a circle of partners of varying descriptions and no primary, and sometimes I’ve had two or three really significant relationships at the same time. 

Certainly there are a lot of monogamous queers out there, but they tend to be laid-back about the idea of poly – it’s not a strange, mysterious, titillating practice, it’s just another way of choosing to conduct one’s relationships, one choice among many. And lots of predominantly monogamous queers will dabble in non-monogamy without really getting their panties in a knot about it, even if they don’t turn it into a full-blown life philosophy. It’s, like, no big deal that Bob and Joe sleep with Bill or visit a bathhouse every once in a while, or that Mary and Sue sometimes fool around with other girls when one of them is out of town, or that Janie and Julie chose Julie’s occasional lover Kris as their baby’s godfather, or that Valerie and Davida cruise together for fun scenes at play parties even if they don’t bring anyone home.

So when I talk about “polyamory” or “non-monogamy,” the context in which this approach to relationships takes place for me is a far cry from the idea of a heterosexual primary partnership with satellite lovers. It’s a way of being in my community, a way of moving through the world that’s not particularly unusual, a way of being… well, just being me. It’s only transgressive if you compare it to a whole other mode of thought.

Which is exactly the audience to which I’m supposed to speak about poly tomorrow: people who will be coming at the question from a whole other mode of thought. How do I translate my ideas about this stuff into a language they can relate to, without dropping the richness of the whole thing along the way?

As in the past, I don’t have any specific answers. It’s a balancing act every time I do this, and sometimes I feel good about the results and sometimes I feel the wires have crossed and I’ve been less successful. All I can do is try my best to explain my points of view simply and without sacrificing depth; and to refocus the questions in ways that help reframe an audience’s thought processes rather than letting the terms of the discussion be set for me. Admittedly, doing this on TV will come with its own set of worries – for some reason live media always stresses me out more than print – but maybe I can just think of it as another form of university panel discussion and forget about the cameras. So… wish me luck for the show.

Oh, and I could also use some good vibes to help me win the battle against the scary mascara-weilding lady.

call for trans narratives
October 25, 2007

Good evening. I’m fresh off a bus from T-dot and feeling a little wiped out, so no juicy stories about Pink Japan tonight. (Soon, I swear!) However I’m trying to clean out my inbox a bit, and I came across a call for personal narratives from Julia Serano, author of the very thought-provoking book Whipping Girl, which I reviewed just a few posts back. I feel compelled to post it; please pass it on to whomever you may know who could be interested!

***

From Julia Serano’s website – http://www.juliaserano.com/artifactualAG.html 

Call for Transsexual Narratives

I am currently working on a paper (which I plan to submit to a peer-reviewed psychology journal) that challenges psychologist Ray Blanchard’s causal theory of “autogynephilia” (which has recently gained attention via J. Michael Bailey’s book The Man Who Would be Queen). This theory posits that all transsexual women who are
not exclusively attracted to men transition to female because we are sexually aroused by the idea of being or becoming women. Many trans women (including myself) find this theory to be flawed because it mistakenly confuses/conflates sexual orientation, gender expression, subconscious sex and sex embodiment, and it unnecessarily sexualizes the motives of countless trans women who transition to female for reasons other than sexual arousal.

To refute the assumption that lesbian/bisexual/ “asexual” trans women are the *only* transsexuals who experience pre-transition fantasies about being/becoming their identified sex, I am hoping to collect applicable narratives from the following groups:

1) FTM transsexuals: narratives that discuss/describe any pre-transition sexual fantasies you may have experienced that primarily centered on you physically being or becoming male rather than on the physique of another person.

2) MTF transsexuals who are exclusively attracted to men: narratives that discuss/describe any pre-transition sexual fantasies you may have experienced that primarily centered on you physically being or becoming female rather than on the physique of another person.

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