Archive for February, 2008

back in the game
February 27, 2008

So I’ve been laid up with a horrible cold and completely fuzzy-headed since the weekend. And the whole time, my little brain was feebly twitching and straining at me to get to the keyboard and write, even though I was barely able to form a coherent sentence like, say, “Please make me a cup of tea,” or “Yes, I want a hot water bottle.” It took me almost all day Monday to write a single 750-word article, and it was an easy one too – based on a very enjoyable interview with the super-sexy and beautifully articulate Lazlo Pearlman, FTM performance artist and cunning linguist extraordinaire. (I’ll post a link when it’s up on Thursday.) Yah. Not my most brilliant hours.

Fortunately I’m in much better health today, all the better since this afternoon I had a meeting with S, the big cheese at Inside/Out, Toronto’s queer film festival, and landed meself a most exciting contract to write a bunch of film synopses for their upcoming program. Woohoo! Any day that results in me coming home with a stack of fresh queer films I’m getting paid to watch and write about, as well as a new and highly drool-worthy pair of Fluevogs, is a good day indeed.

I’m looking at my list of blog post topics and… well, there are more than a dozen awaiting my focus and time. I’ll get there real soon, like maybe even later tonight. A bunch of book reviews, some musings on queer family and Ontario’s new Family Day, some new ideas about D/s and M/s, and most intriguingly the super-strange and mixed-emotion-inducing experience I had last Friday night of attending a queer and trans take on the concept of the freak show. It was… well, freaky, but perhaps not in the ways someone might expect, myself included.

But for now, I just wanted to post a quick hello, and provide a little update on some of my upcoming speaking engagements.

First of all, or perhaps just most excitingly, I’ve got a confirmed date and time for my presentation at the inaugural U of T Sexual Diversity Studies Student Union conference, called “Fetish: Working Out the Kinks.” The keynote speaker is none other than Carol Queen – it’s been a bit of a dream of mine to be on the same presenter roster as her one day, so needless to say I’m pretty stoked about this. Anyway, my talk is called “(Un)Common Ground: Poly, Kinky, Queer” and it’s based on a paper I’m in the process of co-authoring with the lovely Pepper Mint, your favourite San Francisco freaksexual. The presentation takes place on Saturday, March 15 at 2:15 p.m. Also presenting at the conference is Jacqueline St-Urbain, my fantabulous Unholy Harvest co-organizer, on concepts of leatherdyke beauty… I’m looking forward to it already. Rumour has it she may be showing pictures. Heh. Sign up if you’re in town!

The week before that, on March 5, I’m teaching a vaginal fisting workshop at Good For Her, where I will have the pure pleasure of using the most gorgeous non-human teaching aid one could possibly hope for – a big, beautiful silk and velvet cunt, who currently makes her home perched on my bedpost right near a rather lascivious-looking stuffed snake. (Not the taxidermist kind, the plush kind. Still, it’s rather enjoyably Christian-themed – snakes, forbidden fruits, and so on.) Hee hee! Really, she’s beeooooteeeful. Come and meet her! (The cunt, not the snake. Though I suppose I could bring both.) And get the lowdown on fitting your hand up someone’s frontal pink parts. Yummy stuff, that.

That same day, I’m giving a BDSM 101 talk at U of T Scarborough for their International Women’s Week celebrations. Much fun! I’ve posted the full info about both of these talks on my Workshops page, so click on the tab and check ’em out if you’re interested.

And speaking of workshops, Come As You Are is offering a ton of awesome ones in the next little while. I’m really glad I’ve moved here, ‘cuz if I hadn’t, I’d be very grumpy about needing to miss so many cool classes. Erotic photography, erotic writing (with Carol Queen, whee!), tantric BDSM (I may just have to revisit the topic here after that), and a bunch more.

All righty, I’ve gotta sign off, but I promise a meaty post or six real soon. In the meantime, think happy pervy thoughts!

two generations of fuck you
February 21, 2008

In the last few years, I’ve repeatedly come across a patch that says “Not gay as in happy, but queer as in fuck you.”

On the surface, this little saying makes me grin. It comes with an image of a woman clad in a 50s-style dress, toting a gun. Arrr. Rebellious queers unite! I almost bought it myself a couple of years ago, but I settled on “Out of the Closet and Into the Libraries” and “I Fuck to Cum, Not to Conceive” instead. Books and sex, yeehaw!

Of course, though, I had to start thinking about that first line a bit more. And when that happens, I start to come up with other layers of meaning in things, which may or may not have been the intention of the creator of this lovely piece of queer underground political statement paraphernalia.

“Not gay as in happy.” Okay, fair enough. Gay and happy are synonyms, technically speaking. But anyone who’s used the term “gay” to mean “happy” in the last, oh, fifty years or more has been either quaintly and deliberately retro in their vocabulary choice, completely and utterly clueless about social movements for sexual minorities, or intending some sort of double-entendre.

“Queer as in fuck you.” Also fair enough. Queer is a form of massive identity-based politico-academi-sexual fuck-you to the conformist vanilla heterosexual monogamous morass of mainstream Western culture. Bang on, baby; this is an accurate use of the term, even if there are lots of mild-mannered queers out there who aren’t likely to dress like housewives and wield pistols to make their point.

That being said, when you juxtapose the idea of gayness as being about happiness and queerness being about in-your-face rage, we start to tread on territory that doesn’t sit quite so well with me. Perhaps I’m wildly misinterpreting, but it makes me wonder if this little gem is somehow reinforcing a rather erroneous perception of the illustrious history of past generations of same-sex-loving, sodomy-practicing, gender-tweaking activists.

“Gay as in happy.” Gays hardly have a history of being happy. Not in that they were or are necessarily miserable – though the early sexologists and later psychiatrists would certainly have seen it that way, much like present-day religious right and ex-gay movement leaders. But “gay as in happy” conveys this image of passive, smiling gays available for heterosexual entertainment and beautification purposes, which is certainly part of the picture (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, anyone?), but not all of it by any means – though perhaps the straight world may historically have preferred it or portrayed it that way.

Angry gays have gotten us a lot of places. Take Stonewall as an excellent starting point. When a few dozen freaks simply had enough of being abused by the New York City police in 1969, they fought back. Not so much with shotguns, but with bricks and broken beer bottles and high-heeled shoes, yes indeed. These are the riots that ignited generations of gay activism, without which we might not have any of the progress we’ve managed to make today. Fast-forward a couple of decades to the founding of ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) in 1987, which staged massive direct-action street-theatre protests and demonstrations to channel the overwhelming frustration and anger of thousands of unjustly suffering gay people and other people with AIDS, and to force the governments of both the US and Canada to pay attention to the rising AIDS epidemic. Again, they set the stage (literally and figuratively) for massive history-making change in the way HIV/AIDS was treated by the media, the government, employers, drug companies and the medical profession, without which we would certainly never have come as far as we have.

Even just those two examples are certainly a lot more “gay as in fuck you” than “gay as in happy,” and the list of similar examples is long and distinguished.

I’m not saying that the producer of this little patch was intending to be dismissive of gay anger and its incredibly productive history. Perhaps the intention was simply to play with the words to create a powerful, punchy message about queer identity… and it works.

At the same time, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a piece of the message that supports the idea that gay people are necessarily conservative fuddy-duddies, and queers are by opposition necessarily righteous radical activists; that old is weak and passé, young is strong and cutting-edge. I feel strongly that it’s important to hold onto our admiration and respect for the people who came before us, even if some of those same people don’t really “get it” today when they look at the ideas, practices and vocabularies of the queer generation. I don’t appreciate it when younger people, particularly activists, dismiss the value and contribution of older ones; they got us here and gave us foundations to build on. Perhaps we’ve gone in new directions, and perhaps there are generational gaps and political misunderstandings now. But while I don’t believe in the whole “old dog can’t learn new tricks” thing – if political work is to remain relevant it must evolve, and that means that older generations of activists do bear a responsibility to work at understanding the younger ones that walk in their footsteps – I do believe we owe our elders respect, not dismissal.

Perhaps it’s simply that the juxtaposition of any two concepts, with the clear emphasis on the value of one, inevitably calls into question the value of the other, whether that’s the intended message or not. So while I’m all about the fuck-you value of queer politics, I can’t quite find it in myself to get behind a cute saying whose underlying message includes a potential sneer in the direction of the very people whose existence paved the way for mine.

two places, two plays
February 20, 2008

Wow. Time flies when you’re having fun! That being said, I’m way overdue for a couple of theatre reviews here.

The most time-sensitive of them, in terms of making my comp ticket a worthwhile investment on the part of its kind providers, is my review of‘s new performance piece Phobophilia, which recently made its debut at Montreal’s fabulous and super-queer-friendly Studio 303. The play is described as a “hybrid performance work, a contemporary chronicle that uses the life and art of Jean Cocteau as its palate and inspiration.”

Cocteau is the originator of one of my all-time favourite quotes – “A little too much is just enough for me” – and while I’m by no means a true connoisseur, I have a strong appreciation for his work. In 2004 the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts held an exhibit of his art in various media (including his writing – he did conceive of himself primarily as a poet, after all), along with that of others’ work inspired by him, and it was definitely a standout. Combine that aesthetic with the concept of phobophilia – the eroticization of terror – and I was hooked.’s latest definitely has the rich Parisian “classical avant-garde” feel of Cocteau’s work, and their layered multimedia performance concept (also by its very nature reminiscent of Cocteau’s versatility) was so intriguing that it almost didn’t matter that the connection between Cocteau and fear-fetish felt a bit tenuous.

The play started off with a very mysterious ritual in which each audience member was asked to remove their shoes, put on a blindfold, and be rather ceremoniously guided into the small, darkened performance venue. The process definitely set the stage for the up-close and intimate relationship the performers cultivated with the audience. The seats were arranged around a diminutive central performance space, in which a man stood on a black box, perched shakily on his toes, a hood over his head, whimpering in… well, fear and arousal. A voice from the box commanded him to do several things, such as remove his shoes, and he quickly and nervously complied; the voice then started shooting questions at him, which he couldn’t seem to find it in himself to answer. It had the feel of a mild but emotionally compelling interrogation scene.

The play concluded with a return to that same scene, with the man (now barefoot) standing tiptoe and trembling again. I could have watched him there for quite some time, honestly… the fact of not knowing what it was that had him so scared, why he was holding himself in this precarious position, and what exactly was turning him on really worked for me, and got my mind going into all sorts of intriguing places about anonymity and power and fear and arousal.

And that’s kind where the fear/eroticism thing began and ended.

The rest of the piece was also very intriguing, but in a completely different way. The duo (Montrealers Stephen Lawson and Aaron Pollard) are geniuses when it comes to the creative use of projection techniques. Their magic box opened to successively reveal one miniature set after another, each constructed with openings and holes and jutting-out bits and moving pieces, such that the 2boys’ equally ingenious tiny projected images could move around and through in a gloriously choreographed and fully interactive dance between image and surface, human and technology. Every time the set changed, it was like they were opening a fresh gift and offering it to the audience, and every last concept was engaging and original.

One particularly brilliant scene involved the performer engaging in a spoken dialogue with a miniature projection of himself; another had tiny people running around on the set, appearing and disappearing through doors and windows that the live performer opened to allow them to pass. Burlesque-inspired musical performances, an ostrich-feathered and corseted drag character, the occasional incorporation of wartime gunfire and bombing soundtracks to add a sobering note to the vaudevillean feel of the thing… It was like a buffet table of delicious creative nibbles, each more delightful than the last.

Perhaps it would take a more experienced art critic than I to point out the connections between all this and the concept of arousal from terror; I didn’t quite see the relationship. But in truth it didn’t make a whit of difference. Whether you get their deeper meanings or simply enjoy the sheer volume of high-calibre creativity they bring to their work, are well worth a night at the theatre.


A few days before seeing Phobophilia in Montreal, I caught Red Dress Productions’ new play Never Man’s Land in Toronto. In a sentence, I’d describe it as a transgender, transgenerational and trans-temporal meditation on the story of Peter Pan and the concept of time. Some reviews have said it’s too long, but though it is fairly lengthy for a one-act play, I found the whole thing quite engaging.

The three actors leap from role to role in ways that are at times quite clear and at others wonderfully indistinct, with a minimalist set (a sheet, a table and some ropes) that doubles as a projection screen at various points in the narrative.

Our hero, Peter, starts out as a contemporary female-bodied person (with the birth name Wendy) who declares that s/he is going to finally decide once and for all whether s/he is a woman or a man. “Our” Peter’s journey is juxtaposed with that of Peter Pan choosing repeatedly, in the face of advancing time and a shrinking island, not to grow up. Wendy faces considerable dilemmas as Wendy/Peter’s mother (an academic expert on Peter Pan) and would-be lover who tries, gently but with more and more urgency, to convince him that he can’t avoid adulthood forever. Peter’s father / Wendy’s psychoanalyst / Captain Hook goes from cold gender-enforcing analysis to the growling desperation of a pirate constantly fretting, in bouts of increasingly frenzied anger and fear, about the crocodile who ate his hand and will surely be back for the rest of him; the beast swallowed a clock that now warns Hook of the croc’s approach, but that clock will surely wind down one day, and then…

That sense of both meditative poetry and building urgency plays out in each spiral of the story, underpinning the entire work in a way that manages to be both subtle and very effective. It’s intriguing to see this classic story and fairly classic themes juxtaposed with the much more contemporary theme of gender questioning and identity transition, with secondary themes of family alienation and chosen community.

On the technical front, the set is well-designed and versatile, the projections and music add depth to the narrative, and the acting is solid – never brilliant but always convincing. But the true strength of this play lies in Tristan R. Whiston’s writing. This is most strikingly evident in the concluding monologue that Peter gives about time. He strings just about every colloquial saying about time that the English language has to offer – “running out of time,” “time to kill,” “just in time,” “take your time,” and so forth – into a single rapid-fire list that somehow, in all its simplicity, manages to convey the emotional swell of a symphonic finale, with urgency and nostalgia and humour swirled together in a masterful whirlwind of words. Truly impressive.


And those are my queer theatre reviews for the month. Here’s hoping there will be more opportunities soon!

how and why i’m supporting abortion rights
February 13, 2008

It’s been a very interesting few days with lots of things to report on, starting with a couple of book reviews (I know I keep saying that, but I swear I’m actually gonna do it!), reviews of two plays (Neverman’s Land in Toronto and Phobophilia in Montreal), and various brain meanderings I’ve enjoyed (about D/s, alternative sexual elitism, and more).

For now, though, I just wanted to pass on a couple of things that have come my way on a topic I rarely address here… in fact this might be a first, at least at this depth. That topic is abortion rights.

The Globe and Mail is currently conducting a poll asking whether or not Dr. Henry Morgentaler should be awarded the Order of Canada. For those who don’t know him, Morgentaler is a longtime champion of abortion rights for women, a hugely influential figure in Canada’s history in this regard.  Here’s a bit of history from the Globe and Mail article:

“It has been 20 years since the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s abortion law (as well as 35 years since the Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court).

The path to that decision arguably began in 1967, when Dr. Morgentaler presented a brief to the House of Commons health and welfare committee in which he urged that Canada’s restrictive abortion law be repealed.

The next year, he performed his first abortion and then, in 1969, he defied the law by opening a private abortion clinic. In 1970, the doctor was arrested and acquitted, but the acquittal was overturned and he served 10 months of an 18-month sentence in prison.

Legal battles multiplied until the issue made its way to the highest court. On Jan. 28, 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s abortion law, ruling that Parliament had a legitimate interest in protecting human fetuses but that the existing prohibition on abortion was disproportionate in its means and failed to protect women’s right to security of the person.”

Now here’s the catch: Morgentaler has been nominated twice already, and passed over both times; he has recently suffered a stroke and his health is failing; and the Order of Canada cannot be awarded posthumously. In other words, this might be his last chance to receive the recognition he deserves for saving countless women from back-alley abortions and protecting our right to choose what happens with our bodies and our lives.

Currently, 84% of the votes say he should not be given the Order. Clearly this is a case of the right wing stacking the poll; also, a public poll by an unrelated group (especially a poll so clearly stacked) is unlikely to exert a major influence the decision-makers who actually award the thing, especially since they’re not supposed to discuss this with the public at all. Nonetheless, I went and voted on principle, and I invite you to do the same.

In other abortion-rights news, the “Unborn Victims of Crime Act” (Bill C-484) is coming up for a vote in Parliament on March 5. There’s currently a petition going around opposing the bill. According to the petition website, the bill “poses a real danger to abortion rights, to the rights of all pregnant women, and to women’s equality rights in general.” Their logic is fairly solid – here are the bits of the petition wording that I think make the point most helpfully, but the full text is available on the site.

  • The proposed “Unborn Victims of Crime Act” conflicts with the Criminal Code, because it grants a type of legal personhood to fetuses, fetuses being non-persons under the law.
  • Giving any legal recognition to fetuses would necessarily compromise women’s established rights.
  • Pregnant women being assaulted or killed is largely a domestic violence issue and “fetal homicide” laws elsewhere have done nothing to reduce domestic violence against pregnant women or their fetuses.
  • The proposed “Unborn Victims of Crime Act” is a dangerous step towards re-criminalizing abortion and it could also criminalize pregnant women for behaviours perceived to harm their fetuses.
  • The proposed bill’s exemptions for pregnant women may not work since, in the U.S., arrests of pregnant women have occurred even under state fetal homicide laws that make exemptions for the pregnant woman.
  • The best way to protect fetuses is to provide pregnant women the supports and resources they need for a good pregnancy outcome, including protection from domestic violence.

Yep. Pretty solid. Sign here, folks.

I gotta tell you, the state of abortion access in Canada already freaks me out – I wrote an article for the Mirror a couple of years ago to this effect. Among other things, Canada has 40% fewer abortion providers now than in 1980, and med students can come out of an OB/GYN residency without ever having seen or learned about an abortion as it isn’t part of the stated curriculum in Canadian universities. So knowing all that, and seeing that in the same week, Morgentaler’s award nomination is being zealously opposed and anti-choice forces are pushing a bill that would compromise abortion’s legal status… well, it’s rather alarming. If a few clicks can help on that front, I’m all for it, and if more is needed, I’m all for that too. I’m proud to be part of the long history of queers who support abortion rights. Did you know, for example, that ACT-UP, the hugely influential grassroots organization that pushed for access to HIV/AIDS treatments and basically put AIDS on the political map in the 80s, also stood firmly for a woman’s right to choose? There is no coincidence there. Let me lay it out:

As a queer, I oppose any endeavour on the part of the State or any other body to limit my right to fuck and love whom I please, regardless of gender or sex.

As a sadomasochist, I oppose any endeavour to limit my right to fuck, play and conduct relationships in the manner my partners and I enjoy.

As an individualist and a polyamorist, I oppose any endeavour to limit my right to fuck however few or many people I please and to value my relationships with myself and my partners as I please.

And as a woman and a feminist, I most certainly oppose any endeavour to limit what I can and can’t do with my cunt and all its related bits, from the tip of my clit to the deepest recesses of my womb.

Just because I have no plans to fill my own womb with a child doesn’t mean the right to abort is any less relevant for me or for other queers. It all ties in with this idea that the State, or people whose beliefs don’t match with mine, should not have any say over what I can and cannot do with my own body. That principle remains essential to me whether it’s about feeling another woman’s tongue on my clit, welcoming the lashes of a flogger on my back or the sting of a needle under my skin, putting a collar on my sweetheart to acknowledge our D/s dynamic, altering my body so it matches my gender (or in my case personally, supporting others in doing so), taking more than one partner to bed or to the movies… or producing or aborting a baby.

falling off the end of the acronym
February 7, 2008

This evening, I’m in the mood to write about a couple of little things people say sometimes – expressions, phrases, what have you – that bug me. Not necessarily that enrage me… but that perplex me, or irritate me, or sometimes sit funny in my gut like a day-old sandwich.

The first is the expression “the heterosexual community,” or “the straight community.”

This one doesn’t offend me. It just confuses me. Is there a straight or heterosexual community? I don’t think so. Perhaps others might disagree; if so I’d love to hear about it. I think that there is a heterosexual world, society, even hegemony… but not a heterosexual community. I think there are many communities of various sorts that are implicitly, overwhelmingly or exclusively heterosexual, of course. There are certainly lots of communities out there (some religious ones spring to mind, for starters) that explicitly exclude or are very unfriendly to queers. But that’s not quite the same thing as creating or participating in a community based on one’s heterosexuality, or feeling a sense of community or bonding with others specifically because of one’s acknowledged heterosexuality.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but it seems to me that in order to accurately label a group with the word “community,” and to precede that word with an adjective or other descriptor (South Asian, queer, gaming, teaching, hockey-playing …), the members of that group must bond over the characteristic that is being used to describe them. A group of bowlers that all also happen to be parents does not constitute a “parenting community” if their sense of bonding derives from and centres on bowling and they only ever occasionally discuss their kids.  A group of Filipino women who meet for culturally specific support purposes does not constitute “the Northern Winnipeg community” just because they all happen to reside in the same part of the ‘Peg.

As such, I don’t think there’s such thing as “the heterosexual community.” Find me a Heterosexual Social Night at the local bar, a Straights Are Great online discussion group, a Hip Hets clothing store catering to the needs of our unqueer friends, and maybe that’s the beginning of community. Find me many of those things in some sort of networked state, then maybe we’re talking. As it stands, every time I read that expression, a sense of great puzzlement washes over me, and I wonder to whom exactly the writer or speaker is referring.

Here’s another one for ya.

Have you ever heard someone, in a public meeting or conversation for example, say something like “GAY, lesbian, (bitransqueerwhatever)…”? Sometimes it sounds more like “GAY, LESBIAN, bi, (transqueerwhatever),” or sometimes “GAY, LESBIAN, bi trans, (queerwhatever).” But you get my drift.

I hear it all the time. It’s often followed by a little gesture, like something you might find in a poorly executed hula dance, a little wiggle of the hand meandering off to the side somewhere. Sometimes a little flippy kind of wave up in the air, maybe with a tiny nod of the head, as though to say, “you understand, of course.”

Let’s talk for a minute about our favourite unpronounceable acronym, GLBT (or GLBTQ, for today’s purposes).

It started out as G, though I’ve never actually heard anyone say “the G community” – perhaps because “G” and “gay” are each pronounced in only a single brief syllable, and not a difficult one to say; you barely need to let out a tiny puff of breath, graze the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, and let a small sound come forth from your throat. Much like a little cough, or perhaps a short greeting (“hey”) or terse agreement (“‘kay”). Hardly any effort at all. (And it’s definitely much catchier than “homophile,” which surely explains why that word got ditched back in the ’50s.)

Then the lesbians got loud enough, and all of a sudden organizations began to spring up that aimed to be inclusive of the Ls. I’m not a historian, so I’m not talking about specific dates here; rather I’m referencing generalized community trends. Certainly there were L groups and L communities; at some point people saw that there was enough generalized terrain in common, particularly in the realm of political struggle, that it made sense to join forces at least in some cases. So “the gay and lesbian community” was born, and at some point that might have become “the GL community” for short, though I couldn’t tell you when or how often that was used. To be honest “gay and lesbian” wasn’t so scary or hard to remember anyway; a little more effort than “gay,” from one syllable up to five, but that’s not so bad really, so a lot of people just used the words in full.

(In case you were wondering, despite the tri-syllabic commonality, “lesbian” just rolls off the tongue easier than “homophile.” I think the L sound helps to lull the mouth into lazy acquiescence, as one finds with words like “liquid” or “lyrical” or “lovely.” Plus, people never wondered how to pronounce it, unlike the “homophile” – goodness, is that “homophile” as in “feel” or as in “file”?)

Of course, plenty of groups still exist that cater to the needs of just Gs and just Ls, and understandably so to an extent; some concerns and interests simply don’t overlap between the two. When they do, though, there are still many problems with both traditional and “reverse” sexism (or perhaps more accurately, misogyny and misandry) in the groups that attempt to be G and L, as well as gender-based cultural differences and misunderstandings, so let’s not see this integration of G and L as a process from a bygone era; it’s still ongoing and not always easy. Just because they’re homos doesn’t mean they’re immune to the Mars vs. Venus syndrome the rest of the world suffers from.

Eventually, by the early 80s or thereabouts, the bi folks started to come out of the woodwork. Bi inclusion in the community of Gs and Ls took a long time to happen, and it’s by no means a fait accompli today. I was sifting through some old papers a couple of days ago and came across a copy of a speech that Anna-Louise Crago, a Montreal queer and sex-worker activist, gave in San Francisco in 1996 at a conference called Young, Loud and Proud. In it, she wrote:

“And then, there are these fences known as borders. I’ve been told I sit on them by many people. There was the psychologist this year who said something to that effect as she ticked off ‘sexual orientation’ on the diagnosis sheet. However, I have been called a ‘fence-sitter’ many many more times by conservative gays and lesbians. This year, the queer youth group I facilitated led a purge of all the bi and trans members. To these people, as a pansexual, I would say in the words of Rebecca Kaplan: ‘Your fence is sitting on me!'”

1996 is only 12 years ago… barely more than a decade. Things have changed since then, yes, but they’re not perfect by any stretch. I haven’t heard of any purges lately, but I still know several groups that keep their doors closed to people based on their other-sex desire or practice, even in the presence of those same people’s same-sex desire or practice.

Nonetheless, over time, the message has spread that bi people need to be included in this sense of community right along with the Gs and the Ls… that although we Bs do have our own special concerns, our concerns overlap to a large degree with those of the Gs and the Ls, at least as much as those of the Gs and Ls overlap with one another, and same for G-only groups and B men, and L-only groups and B women. That’s still a bit of a stretch for some people and groups nowadays, but I’d say, tentatively, that in most places, aside from some rather backwards spots in, say, Vancouver (don’t even get me started), GLB is about the minimum standard.

And then we come to the T. Transgender, transsexual – depends who you ask. Sometimes this turns into TG and TS in an attempt at increased inclusivity, but the vast majority of the time, T is expected to do the job of both.

Historically, by the way, this progression is totally inaccurate; there have always been plenty of B people all over the place, they simply may not have identified as such or disclosed that particular side of their sexualities. And by all accounts, there were plenty of Ts around as far back as good ol’ Stonewall, so they’re hardly the new kids on the block when it comes to fighting for the rights of the sexually- and gender-variant. But in terms of political clout, the T is the most recent addition to the alphabet soup. Those Ts are making lots of noise these days, getting an awful lot of attention in the courts and the media and the medical/psychological community. So most groups who want to retain any activist credibility are hastily pasting the T onto the end of their acronym, and sometimes after that they invite guest speakers to help them figure out why they’ve done so and what it really means.This is a successful integration to varying degrees depending on the group in question. (Interestingly, many of the ones who are still resistant to B inclusion are hunky-dory with the Ts, but that’s a whole other post.)

And nowadays, we have the increasingly common and frustratingly fluid word queer. Queer, as in odd or different. Queer, as in “queer theory” and “queer community” and “hey, you fucking queer.” Queer as in vastly inclusive, ditch the alphabet entirely and let’s band together under a single banner that attempts to include everyfuckingbody it can who deviates from the norm, in the realm of sexuality and gender. To the point where some even argue that completely un-gender-deviant and un-homo-erotic sexualities – heterosexual gender-normative sadomasochism, for example, or non-monogamous sexual practices as a whole – are also welcomed into the all-encompassing and ever-expanding circle of the letter Q, with its quirky little tail to keep it distinctive even in typeset.

(I must say, I stand in disagreement with this take on things. I doubt your average male/female SM-practicing couple has been on the receiving end of a “you fucking queer” – other things yes, like “pervert” or “freak,” but that one I’m not so sure. Call me a traditionalist, but I think you need to experience some form of homosexuality or gender-deviant sexuality before you can rightfully call yourself A Queer. For someone who doesn’t experience their sexuality somewhere within that realm, the closest they should really get to appropriating the term “queer”, to be PC in the Sex Geek’s books at least, would be to call themself a “queer heterosexual,” as in of queer mindset politically but retaining the accuracy of naming one’s sexual orientation. To go whole hog and become A Queer, please either go give head to someone roughly the same sex as yourself and enjoy it, or at least fantasize about it a lot and enjoy that. Barring that, just give it up and be an ally. We still need lots of those. But I digress.)

So this is how we came to GLBTQ. In that order. Men first, women second, binary fence-sitters third, gender-freaks a token fourth, and those outlandishly confusing ones at the very end if at all.

This is not alphabetical order. It’s not order of creation or existence, like the sequels in a movie franchise or a instalments in the Harry Potter series. It’s quite specifically, and implicitly, order of historically recognized and currently relevant political importance.

Sure, sometimes people flip the G and the L to be feminist about things. “LGBT.” Has a nice womyn-positive ring to it, I suppose, but it’s still just dithering around in the safe spots at the beginning of the acronym. I know of one person – one – in my entire queer network who routinely starts his acronym with the B, as in “BLGT.” I fear that most people don’t do so because the idea that the B should come first is so remote in their minds that should they see this mixed-up version of the acronym, they’d simply react with confusion. And have you ever seen the order turn up as “TLGB” or “TBLG” or anything of the sort? Yeah, me neither.

So let’s come all the way back to my starting point: the order of words in a sentence followed by the word “whatever” and the dismissive handwave.

This, to me, more often than not comes off as an order of percieved legitimacy. It’s very telling. Certainly some people fall prey to that little linguistic habit simply because they’ve heard it so many times, or because they’re firmly located in the Q or T and being ironic, or in a genuine attempt to be inclusive and indicate that for them, the acronym goes on to the ends of the alphabet and beyond (I haven’t even mentioned the 2, the I, the A or the second meaning of Q, for example). But the vast majority of the time I see it happen, it’s coming out of the mouth of someone who happily rests somewhere within those first two letters, and who really wants to be seen as progressive but who really just doesn’t get it.

It kinda reminds me of when a straight person uses the words “the gays.” As in, “You know, the gays are such nice people, always so well-groomed.” It means, “I’m trying to show you how open-minded I am, and I probably don’t hate homosexuals, since really it’s not their fault, they were born that way after all, but really I’m pretty darned clueless about what it all means, and shhh, don’t tell anyone I’m asking, but doesn’t anal sex hurt? And what do two women do in bed together, anyway?”

Similarly, those who utter “GAY, LESBIAN, (bitransqueerwhatever)” are really saying, “I’m trying to show you how open-minded I am, and I probably don’t hate all those odd people at the end of the acronym, since really as a gay/lesbian person I should be, I mean I am accepting of those who are a little, you know, different, but really I’m pretty darned clueless about what it all means, and shhh, don’t tell anyone I’m asking, but aren’t bisexuals really just confused? And what do a trans person’s private parts look like, anyway?”

Now, I’m not particularly interested in being the next language police. Which is why I’m not providing a handy list of ways to get around either of these terminology issues. I don’t think this is a job for the PC patrol at all. Rather, I think that people who recognize themselves as using either of these two phrases – “heterosexual/straight community” or “GAY, LESBIAN, (bitransqueerwhatever)” – and who are uncomfortable with that recognition should make their own changes.

The good news is that it’s easy. In the first case, just think about what you really mean when you say “heterosexual community,” and say that instead. In the second case, there’s a ton of information out there on bisexual issues, trans issues and queer identity; there are lots of articulate speakers and sharp writers who will be more than pleased to guide you through the nuances of such things, and once you’ve read enough to gain a sense of how to be respectful, you might be able to appropriately reach out to the people near you who fall within the B or the T or the Q and ask them for their individual take on things, if they are willing to provide it (and if they’re not, that’s their right and privilege, and no, you aren’t allowed to be mad at them for it and dismiss all other Bs and Ts and Qs because of you got turned down).

The bad news is that it’s hard. Maybe not so much in the first case, though that might depend on who’s using the phrase. In the second case, before you can expect to truly get anything out of the self-education process, you need to look at your own biases, analyze the places of your discomfort, and make sure you’re opening them up, gutting them and letting the sun shine in rather than just plastering them over and putting on a fresh coat of paint.


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