Monday, July 26, 2010


That's right, kids, we've moved.

Say goodbye to all the memories and hello to a bright, shiny future:

Thursday, July 15, 2010


It's about time I talked about this, isn't it?

Part of me wants to wait to talk about this sometime later, when I have a bigger readership and possibly more to say. But, something came up recently that reminded me of it and, well, I feel that it's that time.

Labels and I have always had a love-hate relationship. I think the majority of the rest of the world would probably say that they feel the same way.

I love labels because when I can label myself as something, I feel like I am part of a group. Labels are like group hugs. Saying, "I am ______" means that, unless I have created this word entirely on my own, I share something with someone else and that means that I am not alone. My timeline of labels goes as follows: bisexual -> lesbian -> trans -> genderqueer -> queer -> (?). I'm not sure where I am now, because I'm not sure that I want a label anymore.

Unfortunately for labels, I have more reasons to hate them than to love them.

What reminded me of this was a debate on Twitter (shut up) started by a popular podcast called The Lesbian Mafia.

If you haven't heard all the ruckus about the new film "The Kids Are All Right," let me brief you: the movie was directed by an out lesbian and depicts the life of a lesbian couple and how it changes when their children seek out the anonymous sperm donor that helped create them. Apparently, in the film, the character played by Julianne Moore has an affair with the sperm donor, played by Mark Ruffalo. I haven't seen it, so I don't know the context or to what extent this happens or anything. I just know that it does, and it's pissing a lot of people off.

The Lesbian Mafia "tweeted" (yes, I'm nauseated, too) a statement in response to the film, stating that lesbians were defined as strictly women who had sex with women and if a woman had sex with a man, that immediately revoked her identity as a lesbian.

I have a lot of feelings. Are you ready for them? This would be a good time to go to the bathroom or grab a drink, 'cause this might go on for a while.

Any possibly positive feelings I may have had about the labeling of sexual identity is completely gone. It goes to show you how flimsy my support was to begin with, that this one thing chased it away forever, but that's not surprising. I went from trying for years to define myself as something, anything, to working as hard as I can to identify as a person and nothing more. I'm not quite there, but I'm working on it.

I am enraged at the idea that the lesbian community would not only tolerate but encourage the exclusion of anyone based on something so trivial. Believe me, I am the first person that will admit to having a bias against women who leave female lovers for males, but I am working really hard to fix that and I think it's going really well. I do understand that this bias is not out of the blue; lesbians/females who pursue females have had to live for far too long with the thought in their head that what a woman needs is the "right man," some "good dick," and she will never be satisfied without that, that you, woman, will never truly be enough for her. I've had my fair share of girlfriends who have left me for men because "the gay thing is just not working out." As a female with gender identity issues, that hit home twice as hard every time I heard it.

But as I get older, as I experience more of the world, I realize that all of this essentialist bullshit is... well, essentialist bullshit. So what if your girlfriend leaves you for a male? Why should that hurt any more than leaving you for a female? Especially with the increased availability of the strap-on, I mean, this shouldn't even be a question anymore. If you can't make it work when she can pick the dick she wants you to use, then you've got bigger problems than gender. I am no longer in high school; I can safely assume that my relationships are mature enough that if someone decides not to be with me, it has very little to do with what is or isn't between my legs. I am significantly less threatened by males every day and I am exquisitely proud of myself every day that I feel more and more progress in this area.

So, let me ask this:

Is a woman still a lesbian if she only enjoys strap-on sex with her woman-identified female partner?
What if her partner is a pre-op FTM?
An FTM with top but not bottom surgery?
An MTF who still uses her penis?
What about a male-identified partner who doesn't use his penis?
What about a male-identified partner who doesn't have a penis?

I worry about asking essentialist lesbians to answer those questions because I fear that it will completely demean the gender expression (or lack thereof) of the people involved. This is what I call straight lesbianism. There is straight gayness as well, and even straight trans (I know, I know, more labels, but as much as I hate them, sometimes you need to call something something in order to talk about it). This is the phenomena when a group, despite being part of an "alternative lifestyle" community, confines itself to the heteronormative boundaries of society. A lesbian who believes that lesbians are only females who have sex with only females, though redefining gender boundaries, is still holding them firmly in place. This is probably fine for transfolk who conform to the binary (and nothing against that, I assure you), but this eliminates the expression or even the existence of those (like me) who choose to live somewhere else far, far away from the line.

My girlfriend does not identify as a lesbian, and neither do I, but we are constantly referred to as such and it gets increasingly frustrating every time it happens. Why are we automatically given this title? Because we both are biologically female and in a relationship with one another? The point doesn't drive home as well for me, because I have identified as a lesbian for a long time and none of our friends are aware of my increasing rejection of a woman identity. But my girlfriend is a woman-identified female who has not previously been in a relationship with a female until lucky little ol' me. If all it takes is one female sexual partner to make a woman a lesbian, then why does it only take one male partner to make her something else? If these labels are so fluid, then why are people so goddamn adamant about deciding who is and who isn't?

I say, you are whatever you want to say you are, but when it comes down to it, you're a person. You're a person who has sex. You're a person who pursues romantic relationships. Maybe you're a person who doesn't have sex or doesn't pursue romantic relationships. Either way, you're a person, flesh and bone and muscle and all that wiry crap woven in between and at the end of the day, that's all that should matter.

Fellow blogger/friend of mine, Jessica Who?, made a great YouTube video about labels a little while back that I just found via en|Gender, blog of author Helen Boyd (whose book, She's Not the Man I Married, I just bought and intend to write a response to on here soon). Check it out (and the comments on it) here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sticks and Stones [DRAFT] [UPDATED]

Words are words. Words are just sounds and images that the important people of society's past put together and then they put a meaning to different combinations and called it "language." Over time, we, as a collective society, have altered these meanings, added new combinations, and taken away old ones. I'll be the first to say that age-old mantra of Cultural Studies: Language is arbitrary.

You can call me anything. The words themselves don't mean a thing to me. I used to get really up in arms about the word "dyke." These days, I've been known to use it myself, even sometimes to describe me (though not in a negative, name-calling way). My problem with the word "dyke" was a very simple one. "Dyke" was (and is, I think, still) the lesbian version of "fag." Whenever I'd heard it used, it was with complete malice... or, so I thought. People called you a "dyke" because they hated lesbians, and they hated that they thought you were one, whether you were one or not. I was naive and thought that people were honestly intelligent and thoughtful enough to at least hate you for what they thought to be true.

Then came the advent of "That's so gay." And, again, I seethed at the homophobia that ran rampant around my high school hallways. I lashed out at friends who used the phrase into their conversations. It got to the point where, whenever it would slip out of someone around me, the speaker would instantly apologize to me to avoid being lectured. I'm not proud of that, but I can't say I'm ashamed, either.

And then I realized that this had nothing to do with gay people at all. Well, I mean, part of it did, but not the part that included my friends and peers.

Clearly, whoever started using "dyke" and "faggot" to refer to lesbian/gay people did it with the intention of isolating that section of their identity. It began with homophobia, and it continues to exist because of homophobia, but it also continues to exist merely because of a lack of education. Most of these people don't actually have a problem with gay/lesbian people. "That's so gay" began because of a negative connotation attached to gay identity, but the kids in my school that picked it up did so out of the mere fact that being constantly surrounded by a certain dialect will cause you to eventually emulate it. Many of my friends told me they didn't mean it, it was "just a figure of speech," but I didn't believe them. Now, I do believe them.

But I don't excuse them. Like I said, just because you don't mean it that way doesn't mean that everyone doesn't mean it that way. And it definitely doesn't mean that that's not how it started because, hey, out of all the words in the English dictionary to use as a new way to express disgust, you mean to tell me someone picked the word "gay" out of a hat? I may not be smart but I ain't dumb.

I started thinking about this at work the other day. I get along with my coworkers pretty well. We have a good rapport, I like all of them (aside from one exception who, I recently discovered, nobody else likes either), we've got each other's backs, etc. And although I have a really hard time integrating with most of the rest of society for a plethora of reasons, I do enjoy being in their company.

Also, I am lucky enough to not have to be closeted at work. They all ask me about my girlfriend, I have "girl talk" about her to the girls and, albeit with good intentions, the guys invite me to have "guy talk" with them, though I politely decline.

But I can't help noticing the kind of language that gets thrown around the store while I'm there. Bad music gets described as "faggy shit." A disliked character on television is "such a queer." Strict parents are "just so gay." I know what I said, that they don't mean it that way, they don't even understand what it is they're saying. They obviously don't understand or mean it because they say it while I'm there--sometimes even in conversations with me.

But that's the problem, isn't it? They don't understand what they're saying. They don't understand that, these are just words, but they're words that stem from a way of thinking that has killed and assaulted and tormented generations of people simply for being who they are. And until people understand what they're saying, nothing is going to change. As long as "gay," "queer," "fag," "dyke," are synonymous with "stupid," "pathetic," "weak" and "disgusting," the true extent of discrimination, hate, abuse, assault, violence, and the like goes unnoticed.

I labeled this a draft because it's clearly all over the place with barely any comprehensible content and an unclear thesis that I changed halfway through writing it (sounds like all my papers in college high school).

What I'm trying to say, in all different ways, is that the problem I have with this isn't words and what they mean because I recognize that language is fluid and I love that about it. It's with the fact that a majority of society doesn't understand what their words are saying about themselves and what their words are doing in the grand scheme of things. You know? How do I get people to understand why it's more than just a figure of speech? I don't have to get them to care, just get them to know.

As if right on cue, I had an interesting interaction with one of my co-workers today. A woman came into the store who didn't speak very much English--this is not an uncommon thing at my store, which is located near a bus stop that goes to New York City, meaning that we get a lot of tourists and a lot of immigrants who commute for work or what have you. I guess that my co-worker had a hard time communicating with her, and when she left the store, he came over to me. "Do you have any Spanish in you?" he asked me. I thought he was trying to see if anyone in the store spoke Spanish so that if another Spanish-speaking customer came in, someone else could handle it. I said, "A little Portuguese, but no Spanish." Without missing a beat, he responded with, "I fucking hate spics."

This is not the first time I've dealt with racism at work, either, and it's always with this specific coworker. He is seemingly a very sweet person... if you're white. He's told me of his hatred for black people, Asian people, Spanish people, and Middle Eastern people--you know, basically anyone who isn't white. I won't make myself into a saint and say that I've tried to discourage his behavior. I haven't, because he never speaks intelligently enough for me to engage him long enough to do so without feeling my brain cells go kamikaze in my skull. But excuses, excuses, I should say something, shouldn't I?

What struck me about this, though, was his initial question. If I had said I was Spanish, that could have gone one of two ways: 1) He didn't say anything at all; or B) he possibly lashed out his anger on me. I'm inclined to think that the former would have been his reaction.

So... what's the difference between me being Spanish and me being queer? He has no qualms about slinging anti-gay phrases around when I'm at work, why should he care if he offends my heritage? I'm not going to make an argument for or against the idea of racism and homophobia being related/similar/identical issues and don't take any of this to be related to that argument because it's not. But, in this situation, I have to make a comparison and ask the question: what is the difference? People are wary of being racist, especially in public, because there are laws, number one, and number two, racism is generally something that is looked down upon--well, at least, blatant derogatory statements are, I won't go into anything else because, well, you're probably already bored and that's not what this blog is about, is it?

But homophobia isn't generally looked down upon yet. In liberal areas, yes, it is, but even so, that's on a larger scale. Calling a gay man a faggot on the street in front of strangers would surely get you dirty looks and possibly a shiner in most places, but what about in these cases: 18-20 year old boys calling each other "queer" while walking limp-wristed and talking lispy at one another in jest, asking each other, "What is this faggy shit on the radio? I hate this song, it's so gay." They're just being kids, right? Boys will be boys, won't they? And being a boy means not being a girl. And, besides, it's (say it with me now) just a figure of speech. It's not like they're homophobic or anything.

I'm so tired of that argument. "I'm not homophobic, but..." If you have to start a sentence with that phrase, you're about to say something homophobic. Calling things you don't like "queer" "gay" "faggy" etc. is HOMOPHOBIA whether or not you think you mean it to be. It means that you associate these terms with things that you consider to have negative qualities. Yes, it does and yes, you do. I can hear all those high school kids out there now, screaming at their computer monitors, "I have gay friends! I bought a 'Legalize Gay' shirt at American Apparel! I love watching 'Glee!' How can I be homophobic by saying words that I don't mean?"

If you don't mean it, don't say it. Simple as that. "Faggy shit" is just as easily replaced with "shitty music," "pile of shit," "sack of cats being drowned in hydrochloric acid" when you're talking about music. Or anything. Don't say words that you don't mean. It's not just a figure of speech, it's proliferation of discrimination and hate that a lot of people have been working really goddamn hard to eradicate since before you or even I were but a speck of dust on this Earth. So shut the fuck up and think before you speak. Thanks.

Whatever I'm laughing at me for being a Twitter bug, too, but TG World News posted this article from MetroWeekly that talks about this issue in a shorter and better post than mine.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Gosh, it's been a while, hasn't it? Well, I'm back and I have a confession to make.

I have not dismantled my privilege.


Nobody has dismantled their privilege. I have said this from the beginning and I will continue to say it. No matter how much people will try to convince you that they have shed the effects of their privilege and think/speak/act objectively, they are wrong. We are all products of our privilege, in the same way that we are products of the ways in which we are not privileged. The ways that we have lived comfortably and fortunately will always affect how we function, even if we realize that we're doing it and, subsequently, do what we can to stop. The fact is that it takes work in order to distance yourself from your privilege and see things without it.

As a middle-class white kid, I've always thought that I was aware of my privilege. This does not, by any means, indicate that have somehow moved beyond it. But I've felt that I recognized the blessings of my social and economic status and what that meant for me in relation to others.

What I never realized was how fortunate I've been as a queer kid growing up in a diverse and accepting area.

I was never hassled at school--not for being queer, at least. I was never gay bashed or publicly humiliated, not in ways that traumatized me, anyway. There were some incidents in middle school but middle school is a cesspool of humiliation so I don't think that really counts. I could not have been more fortunate in high school. My teachers not only respected my queerness but they encouraged it and allowed me to flourish as I explored it. I was constantly praised for my "leadership" because of the way that I lived openly as a (at the time) lesbian-identified gender-bending non-conformist.

Coming out to my parents was a terrifying experience but there was no reason for it to be that way. I cried buckets when I told my mother that I was gay my freshman year of high school, and other than some regretted and retracted accusations said in the heat of argument, she never attempted to change or hide me. My father, who has a strict Southern Baptist upbringing, has actually been the most accepting of the two of them. My grandmother was the first person I ever came out to at all and her reaction was, and I quote, "No shit, honey." Anytime that I faced the prospect of harassment (which came in the form of a closed-minded friend who has since opened her mind in the most beautiful ways and a by-the-Bible family who disapproved of my relationship with their daughter), my parents stepped up beside me and supported me without wavering. I could not be more thankful and grateful for them. My mother likes to tell stories of walking through the mall with me and making steely eye contact with those who gawked at me as I walked past them, decked in rainbows and boy's clothing with pink hair and black painted nails.

I can walk around my town in men's clothing, with my short haircut and, occasionally, my chest bound and not face any adversity. People are people and will stare, will whisper to one another, "What is that? Who is that?" but I have never once felt unsafe in my neighborhood. I tell strangers at the supermarket about my girlfriend if asked about my boyfriend. I sit down at Barnes & Noble with a copy of Curve magazine and I feel just as comfortable holding that as I do the cup of tea in my other hand.

While it is true that I have not discussed my gender identity issues with anyone but a select few, this is not a result of prospective danger. My decision to keep my thoughts confined to this blog and my mind is one that stems from my own personal issues with discussing things that I am uncertain about with anyone until I've figured them out. Even if I never straighten these things out (and honestly, I never expect to), I can at least wait until I am older, when I can say that this isn't the restless remains of teenaged confusion and angst, that this is a conversation that I must have and have only once. I have days where I am sure that my parents would be fine with it and I have days where I am sure that they will give me 10 minutes to pack my things after I say it. But, regardless...

For all intents and purposes, I am out. I am out and I am out loud. So it's difficult for me to understand when others are not. When others are frightened of what they are, of people knowing what they are. I can't wrap my head around why someone wouldn't come out to their doctor or why they would be scared of seeing pictures of their boyfriend in drag on the internet. I am a graduate of the Harvey Milk Academy of Coming Out. I staunchly believe that coming out and being proud is the only way that any oppressed group is going to get anything done, in this country or anywhere else. We're here, we're queer, get fucking used to it.

But it's not always that easy, is it? Sometimes, that means violence. Sometimes, that means loneliness. Sometimes that means homelessness and hunger or suffocation in a place where you are no longer welcome. Sometimes, all the freedom that comes from letting go is snatched away by pain, rejection, and wounds that might not ever heal.

Some people come from places where they couldn't even dream about being able to be known as anything but the dictated norm. And sometimes, they carry that fear with them wherever they go. It's not something you can just let go of when you're not where you were. And sometimes, freedom is fucking scary. Going someplace where you can let go, be who you are, do what you want... sometimes, it's just too much to deal with at once. You have to take baby steps or else you feel like you'll get swallowed. It feels like you've stepped into the Wonka Factory: If you take too much, if you get cocky, if you say, "I want it now!" it'll all be over before you even get to taste it.

Strangely enough, my father is the one that pointed this out to me. My parents, I think, have realized that the key to getting me to talk to them without being first spoken to is to talk about queer things. After an awkward segue into the conversation via my father offering to take me to the Pride March in NYC next year (an adorable and heartwarming suggestion, albeit misguided because my father can't watch Desperate Housewives without blushing), we got onto the topic of straight assimilation and I began my diatribe against it.

My father was the one that pointed out to me how fortunate I am to be able to feel, think, and act with so little regard for others' opinions. I'm lucky that opinions are the only things I have to fear. And in that way, my privilege allows me to flaunt my status as a member of an oppressed group. If we were poor, I couldn't, for fear of being fired from a job that I would need in order to survive. If I grew up in a conservative neighborhood, I might not have the fearlessness I've acquired over the years of my upbringing.

Courage is just as socially determined as anything else. I have the courage that I have because of my lack of adversity during the most adverse times of my life. This is not to say that those who face adversity cannot be courageous, in fact, they have immeasurable amounts more than I do. But there is something to be said of my ability to say, "Fuck it!" and go on as I please. And I need to remember that not everyone comes from the same place as me. That maybe their hesitation is not an act of internal hatred or fear of rocking the boat but, instead, a survival tactic that they have been conditioned to believe that they need in order to live. And maybe, just maybe, where they're from, it's not unnecessary.

I will never dismantle my privilege. I will continue to encourage people to come out. I will continue to foster love, acceptance, equality, and flamboyancy wherever I go. But I will try my hardest, in the future, to truly understand where my closeted companions are coming from. And I will not stop fighting until the day when that doesn't mean anything.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Body Image

So, living in the middle of and occasionally on both sides of the binary opens one's mind to many an issue that goes unnoticed. Body image is not one of them--at least, for the feminine side of the spectrum.

But what about masculinity? In this time of progression and (post-)modernity, the rise of Women's Studies and reclamation of reproductive rights, I feel like there is little emphasis on the plight of the male. Which is fine sometimes, because the entire history of the world is basically Men's Studies. But the more that I notice things I've never noticed before, the more important I find it to be.

People tend to forget that *everything* is constructed in the media. It's not just stereotypes about minority groups or standards for how to fit in as a biological/social misfit. Our normalcy is also entirely constructed. What is considered to be "normal" in our society is nothing more than an image created by swollen-headed billionaires sitting in a conference room at the top floor of some shiny skyscraper asking themselves, "What will the American people projectile vomit their money toward becoming in the hopes of being successful and appealing?"

Men are no exception to this, though it is usually talked about only in the context of women's bodies, which, again, makes sense because the rest of male privilege really doesn't put anyone with a penis in any position to be whining about his position in the social hierarchy. But the more that I experience it, the more I think it, too, needs to be noticed, analyzed, and fixed.

In this journey of self-discovery that I've been embarking on for the past year, I've made it a point to try to examine my own prejudices. I will freely admit this right now: I am horrifically sexist. Toward men. Cismen, to be exact. I used to think this was because I had suffered the plight of the teenage girl in America and was experiencing a lifelong backlash against the patriarchy and blahblahblah. And that's all fine and dandy because it's true for some and you go, girl. But that's not what it is for me.

So, I reevaluated and came to the second conclusion: I hate men because I am jealous of them. I'm jealous that every man was just born with the body that I'm going to have to dump buckets and buckets of money into attaining. None of them had to do jack shit to get to where I wish I could be and none of them understand what kind of privilege that grants them. And I got on this "transmen unite!" kick where I joined every social networking site for FTMs that I could find and reveled in the company of my brothers in arms.

Today, I went with my best friend to a doctor's appointment. On the way home, we were talking about a friend of mine from college who she's never met before but finds to be irresistibly attractive. I asked her why it was that she was so infatuated with him, because, as one of his good friends, I had a hard time seeing him in anything but a silly little brotherly way. She said that he was "gorgeous," because he was 6'5", had broad shoulders, facial hair, and big arms. And that's when it hit me.

See, I'm a tiny guy. 5'3" on a good day, 115 lbs, barely any muscle anywhere and curves like a mountain road in Italy. And this girl is like my sister, so some guy she likes is not going to strike a chord of jealousy in me for want of her affections. But as she highlighted all the parts of this guy that I knew I would never have, I seethed. I white-knuckle gripped my steering wheel and ground my teeth into my jaw so hard, it was almost painful. What made him so goddamn special because he got good genes from his dad? He's "perfect" because he was blessed in the womb? That's not fucking fair. Not fair at all. I love this kid, and I'm not going to hate him for this, I told myself (and I truly think that). But I couldn't help but think about his sweet smile and, for a split second, want to punch his teeth out.

I came home and was messing around on the internet, waiting for the time to come to leave for another errand (which is vehemently approaching as I type). I came across a photoseries on Jezebel, one of the leading feminist blogs on the interwebs. The female models in the series ranged from supermodel thin to close to obese. But all of the male models were the same: slender, but muscular, carved and ripped like they'd been whittled out of strong oak. And it hit me in the face like a fastball.

Women are increasingly being told that being fat is OK, embrace your curves, let Mother Nature work her magic, just be yourself and the weight won't matter anymore. But nobody's telling this to guys. Men are still shown that the rugged, strong jaw muscle man look is all they've got to snag a good looking lady (or any lady at all, if he's posing with the average sized models).

And yes, yes, I *can* think of instances where this isn't true (any sitcom on primetime television, for example, where a balding white guy with a beer belly and his hand in his pants is happily married to a thin, well put together and logical bombshell). Men still have the upperhand, men are still allowed to be brash and impolite and douchey without consequence.

But it's still hard on guys like me. Already, I've got to wear a neoprene girdle on my chest to flatten myself out. I've slouched my entire life and now, to gain a little bit of wingspan in my shoulders, I'm painfully trying to practice standing up straight as an arrow at all times. I've spent countless hours at the gym trying to gain some muscle mass but balancing that with a vegetarian diet and diabetes, as well as a family who doesn't know that you're trying to pass as male, is proving to be fruitless and I'm too easily discouraged. And what have I got to live up to? It's impossible. Even after HRT, I'm not going to get any taller. My weight will shift but I've already got a little bit of a belly. In plain English, I'm fucked.

This isn't supposed to be "waah waah look at me I can't live up to impossible expectations now hold me while I cry" but it is venting frustration and it is a cry for better representation for guys like me. Guys who can't help how they were born and just want to know that we can be functional in this society as who we want to be. Give me something to lean on, give me someone to look at who I can see myself in. Give me something to look forward to. Or else I'm gonna have to step up and try to become a famous body and believe me, nobody wants me to have a voice in the media.