Posts Tagged ‘gender’
The truth is, it's embarrassing, really, to come while strapped on and fucking. The amount I have to let go and risk is sometimes too much for my heart to open up. It isn't fair to say that she doesn't have to do the same amount of risk and letting go when I throw her down onto the bed, shove my hand between her legs, push my fingers inside until she's screaming and thrashing under my forearm holding her down. But it's different, isn't it?Read More
I don’t know exactly where I first heard it, but somewhere I read once: men want to feel powerful, and women want to feel beautiful.
Now: calm your “oh my god social construction of genderrrrr!” self and let’s start with some further clarification. Women feeling beautiful, in this expression, is also actually a source of power; and men feeling powerful, here, actually means “feeling physically strong.” At least mostly. Agreed?
So really, it’s saying that men want to feel strong, and women want to feel beautiful. These are two – of many – major sources of power based in the physical body.
I know this is a cliche. I probably read it in the context of gender deconstruction and the socialization process of gender. I know this goes along with conventional, normative, often damaging gender role assumptions that value men for their physical strength and women for their physical beauty.
And as much as I am aware that those concepts are socially constructed, I also have seen the ways that they are played out and real for many, many people. So maybe we’ve internalized the values of the culture. This is one of the problems with social constructionism in general – if something is created socially, then in theory it can be uncreated socially, right? But just because something is done socially – rather than biologically, say – doesn’t make it any less real or “authentic” or deeply ingrained in many of us.
And this gendered source of physical power is amplified, I think, in butch/femme culture, where we go inside these roles with purpose to explode them, exploring the socialization and de-essentializing traits said to be inherent in biology. Is it as easy as explaining that we are continuing to internalize the compulsory mutually exclusive gender paradigm? I don’t know, maybe. Certainly that probably accounts for (to pick a completely arbitrary number) 45% of it. But there is something else in there, something deep-seated underneath in me that swoons and grows and stretches its wings and feels so greatly alive when she whispers, “you are so strong, so strong” like she did last night.
And I remembered all the times I gazed in awe at her beauty (every time I see her) and remember the ways she swoons to be seen, femme and whole and holy, and I wondered if I should be saying more about strength and less about her physical attractiveness. Am I just buying into what the culture tells us we should be or say or value?
[ Yet - oh I do tell her I value her other qualities (don't I? Yes). The depth of her calm understanding and respect feels like such a gift each time I encounter it. I fear it could so easily go the other way, yet she has the connection to the world at her core which means she values others' experiences. And she's strong enough in herself to know that my feelings are not about her, and to accept that with grace and clarity. And then there's her wonderful good moods, her energy, her interest in keeping the spark lit behind her eyes. Her deep ability to feel, to observe, to respond. Her analytic skills, and how she can dissect things into pieces (while still respecting the whole!) and look at how it all fits together. There is much more to her than her beauty, heaven knows I know this. ]
And yet: in the deeply intimate moments, this is what comes out of my mouth: pretty girl, pretty girl. you are so gorgeous. I love the curves of you – here, and here. your skin glows so beautiful in the morning light.
And in that moment last night, when she commented on my strength, my heart swelled and burst like a wave cresting, and the inner cavern of my chest was smooth as a sandy beach, just for a minute, perfectly even, soft, made up of a thousand tiny grains, the breakdown of everywhere I’ve ever been.
I don’t know why it matters so much that I am seen as strong. But it does, it does.
I ran across the phrase "butch in the streets, femme in the sheets" (again) the other day, and it bothered me (again, still). So I started thinking: It generally means - and correct me if I'm wrong - that this supposed "butch in the streets," once taken to bed, liked to or wanted to get fucked. This is operating on an identity alignment assumption: that butches are tops.Read More
An identity alignment assumption is the assumption that one's identity categories align with what is either a stereotype or a dominant compulsory cultural norm.Read More
Let’s have it, folks. Email photos of your beautiful genderqueer selves to email@example.com or add your photos to the Queer Eye Candy group on Flickr which myself and the lovely Alisha are monitoring.
I’ve been slow to ask for femme eye candy, but ever since we started that discussion I’ve planned to get back to it, planned to ask for submissions of femmes. I was, for a minute there, concerned that asking for femme eye candy would turn into a strange way of objectifying women and femininity, but honestly? I’m over that. There are dozens – thousands! – of ways to be femme, and I want to see ‘em.
And recently I posted a bunch of eye candy photos of couples getting married, and I really liked that. There is such beauty and love in those photos. I want to see more of those, whether you’re married or not, I want to see photos of you and your beloved, locked in embrace or laughing or arguing or crying or in awe of some beautiful bit of the natural world or with your neices & nephews or with your cats … or anything! Couples, groups, communities, friends, your drinking buddies, your pool game.
Let’s have it.
Let’s go beyond butches and femmes (though I will always have a soft spot for that particular aesthetic, sigh) and make it a call for any sort of gender-queer-ness out there.
Andro dykes, trans guys, trans women, bois, babyqueers, grrrrls, transfeminine, transmasculine, no-gender, two-spirit, three-spirit, cowboy nerds, working-class, high-class, high femme, high butch, gentleman butch, feminist, cross-dressers, all of you queers: what do you look like?
Here’s what you’re going to include:
[Required] Names of people featured in the photograph (can be initials/pseudonyms):
[Required] Tags: [Can be anything - queer, genderqueer, nothing, just me, butch, femme, dapper dandy, high femme princess, dolly parton drag queen, andro butch-leaning dyke - anything!]
Photos must be high quality – preferably at least 600×400. Tasteful nudes are okay, but should be much more on the art-photography side and not the explictly-naked side. Yes, this is a sexblog, but I try to keep the images safe for reading at work.
So let’s have it.
C’mon, bring it on.
This country is afraid of us, but they don’t know who we are. We’re hot, we’re fierce, we’re vulnerable, we’re beautiful, we’re in love, we’re horribly ugly, we’re scared, we’re tender-hearted, we’re dog mommies and daddies, we’re parents, we’re children, we’re neices and nephews, we’re married, we’re bachelors, we’re rednecks, we’re blue-collar, we’re construction workers, we’re political pundits, we’re musicians, we’re drag performers, we’re community organizers, we’re angry, we’re activists, we’re just us.
Let’s show off who we are. Let’s show those who don’t know what we look like, let’s show off who we love and who we spend our time with, let’s show off our joyous communities and our heartaches and our hardships and our work and our play and our joy.
Let’s celebrate ourselves, just as we are.
I am not noticed much in New York City. My recent trip to Washington State’s Olympic Penninsula reminded me of this and I’ve been more observant of it ever since.
Honestly, to most subway commuters, shoppers, service industry employees, I just don’t register on their freak radar. I dress quite conservatively, usually, for one. I’m often in slacks and button-downs, kakhis and a polo, with a gadget bag and an iPod when I am commuting to and from Manhattan, and I just don’t account for as much attention as someone soliciting for money, someone homeless sleeping on the train, someone with a boa constrictor, someone in a wedding dress.
[Maybe it's a class thing - upper class and working class are noticed, middle class is generally anonymous and neutral?]
I have often noticed that I pass as male here – that people, service employees especially, call me “sir.” But in watching this a little closer I have noticed that it’s not that I’m passing necessarily, I think people are just not paying close enough attention to me – it’s quite obvious I’m female upon just the slightest attentive glance, and I don’t think most people are consciencious enough of genderqueer-ness to call me “sir” by default.
My freak is not in my display of clothing, my costuming, my visible markers – my freak is that my clothing is on this body, that my gender presentation breaks the sex/gender assumption of my societally-instructed gender role. And honestly, the survival skills of New York mean that you don’t – you can’t – pay too much attention to the average Pats and Jamies around you, because you will either: a) get completely overwhelmed by the input, or b) miss observing the dangerous freak and find yourself in harm’s way. It is a skill that, as an empath, observer, and writer, I have had much struggle learning, as I want to be able to observe and notice the things going on around me, and indeed that is one of the best things about New York City, this huge, constant swirl of energy and life. But while it is energizing in small doses, to live inside of it constantly we must develop thick, massive boundaries as to not take in all of the constant comedy and tragedy around us.
When I dress up for a date or for a photo shoot, New York’s reaction to me is slightly different. This is when my masculinity becomes deviant and subversive, even aside from the body it is performed upon, because I start looking like a fag, I add elements of flair and sissy and dress-up and vaudeville, and that is not quite the same conservative masculinity that gets scanned over and does not set off anyone’s freak radar.
So my masculine gender is only “freaky” when it starts to be more feminine, more faggy, more queer. This makes sense now that I’m thinking of it – I just never thought about it like that.
My identity is largely marked by the construction of clothes, costuming, and physical appearance, as I think many butches are, as that’s the most obvious adaptation of the non-normative and subversive gender, and of rejecting the compulsory gender. But strangely I’ve gotten to the point where my construction of this notion of my identity is so “natural” that it doesn’t set off freak radar anymore. It’s only when I take my adopted gender role to more queer places – camping it up, making it more feminine with traditionally feminine colors, adding bold accessories and high contrast – that I start standing out in this city.
I was out of town last week, and now have returned from the other coast, the coast where the sun sets correctly into the water rather than over land, where I was in the Pacific Northwest primarily visiting my very large extended family for five days. I have all sorts of ideas about family and heritage and where I come from, about having kids and having a traditional structure, about how much my sisters and I are the freaks of the family.
Also strange to be referred to as niece, daughter, sister, granddaughter. Those words have never felt so ill-fitting. At some point I went to the bathroom and the door was labeled LADIES and I nearly stopped right there and turned around.
I am not a “lady,” not really. It’s not that I’m necessarily offended by it – I feel lucky to be part of groups of ladies at times, I love that I’m in women’s circles and women’s groups and women’s friendships, but even that word – woman – I’ve never quite felt right about it. I never refer to myself as such.
It’s not that I’m offended by it, it just doesn’t fit. Like too-big clothes or trying to put a hippie in black goth lipstick.
I have a friend who tells childhood stories that always start, “When I was a little girl …” and it struck me when I noticed it that I never refer to myself that way. I’ll say “kid,” as in “when I was a kid.” These days, I say “guy” – “I’m that kind of guy” – when referring to myself. Sometimes I use dyke or queer or butch I suppose, but I don’t ever use woman, lady, girl, or even sister, daughter, niece.
Still, it’s not that I’m transitioning – I’m not – and it’s not that I don’t identify with the lesbian/feminist communities – I do. Maybe I’m too much the poet, too much the semantics theorist, but some of these words just don’t fit.
I suppose this is just one of those frustrating gender binary things, and yet another of the reasons why butch is a trans identity of sorts. And yet another reason why I am still, continuously, inspired to keep doing this work, to understanding gender and creating new language to adequately describe myself and others, to contributing to the community and lifting each other up.
So there was a wedding in the Pacific Northwest, which is what prompted the large paternal family reunion. There are few events that are more gendered than a wedding. I thought it was going to be a small family wedding, as a few of the others had been, but the 20-something family members were actually in the minority and the community of friends and colleagues were abundant. At the church, I got sneered at by the small-town strangers. I was a bit flamboyantly dressed – pink button down, black argyle vest, no tie (I didn’t think it was going to be so formal!). But certainly I was not the only one dressed up, it was a freakin’ wedding!
Just served to remind me that I’m an outsider. I forget that, in New York City, where I don’t generally get noticed walking down the street unless I have a particularly good hair day. I fit in, I don’t stand out really.
The throwing the bouquet / throwing the garter felt like very strong gender-defining moments in the evening. No way in hell I was going to go out there and catch the bouquet – and actually I’m not sure I have ever been to a wedding where one was thrown, now that I think about it. But I did get out there when it was time to throw the garter. I couldn’t stay, though – I was too much on display in a room-full of too many people who had been giving me too many bad looks throughout the day.
I was little more than The Dyke From New York City all weekend.
I’m lucky, I suppose, is what I should take away from that experience – if I lived there, I would not dress as I do, would not have the fun I do with my hair and pink button-downs and vests and ties and belt buckles and cufflinks and jackets. I’m glad I have that opportunity, that I live in a place that not only accepts it, but encourages and, at times, demands it.
I didn’t expect it to be the reason, but really, I came to New York City so I could learn how to dress. Nothing has taught me fashion or style like this place.
Sometimes it is so uncomfortable to not conform to gender roles.
PS: I’m tremendously behind on email and correspondance, forgive me as I catch up.
I’ve had almost half a dozen people ask me in the past few weeks about my pronoun of choice, so here’s the deal.
When referring to me as Sinclair Sexsmith, I go by the masculine honorific – by Mr. Sexsmith. That, I do feel strongly about. Pronouns have generally then followed, so I am often referred to as “he” and “him.” That’s fine, and I think the masculine character that I have cultivated here as my alter-ego fits quite well with masculine pronouns. I didn’t expect it to happen and I didn’t quite plan it, and I don’t know if I ever would have asked for my friends or lovers to play with male pronouns in my personal life, and I very much like it, more than I thought I would.
But, female pronouns in referring to me as Sinclair are also totally fine. In fact, in some ways, I like that some people refer to me with male pronouns and some with female pronouns, because I firmly am occupying both spaces. In some ways I like the gender neutral pronoun options like ze and hir (pronounced “here”). The Gender Intelligence Agency introduced the pronouns pe (pronounced “pay” not “pee”) and per, short for person, which I quite like but which is proving incredibly awkward in speech. Maybe I’ll try to write a story with them in it sometime, just to try it out, get more used to it.
Problem with pe and per is that it doesn’t have a third possessive adjective version of the pronoun – the “his/her/its” version. I guess that would be per, again? To borrow wikipedia’s structure, it looks like:
I called per.
Per eyes gleamed.
That is pers.
Pe likes perself.
Yeah, I like the philosophy behind that. But looking at the fifteen different gender-neutral pronouns that wikipedia lists as potential options, I hesitate to think that we need more of them. I guess we keep making them because the others don’t quite work, yeah? I kinda wish there was more consensus, but some part of that has to come about organically, about what gets put into use in daily life for a significant piece of a community.
In my offline life, I do not go by male pronouns, at all. As things go on, that is becoming more strange, actually – my sister referred to me recently as her sister, and I thought, oh yeah, I’m a sister to someone. I’m a daughter. Someday I’ll be an aunt, a mother. I think lesbian dad is rubbing off on me that way, in that I don’t know if I’ll ever be “mama.”
I do go by sir, sometimes boy, and other masculine words like that in a sexualized context … but there really aren’t very many of those words for butch tops in bed. But that’s a slightly different post.
So yeah, did I make that clear? Either pronoun of the main two pronouns are fine, neither of them fit exactly – but please do use the masculine honorific (and thanks to jesse james for finding that word for me).