Posts Tagged ‘interviews’
Interview with Amber Dawn
Q: The format of How Poetry Saved My Life (prose pieces mixed with a variety of poetry forms) deviates from what readers might have come to expect from the literary memoir form. Sections “Outside,” “Inside” and “Inwards” hint at a narrative arc, though the overall structure remains more loose and thematic than chronological. Why did you choose to tell your story this way?
Amber Dawn: I have a great deal of admiration for authors—especially ex-sex workers—who write their memoir as a chronological journey. Some books I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently are Whip Smart, by Melissa Febos and Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, by Diablo Cody. I doubt I’d have the wherewithal to sit down and write my own story in this manner. How Poetry Saved My Life encompasses nearly fifteen years of collected writing. I wrote each piece for different reasons. Some poems had more therapeutic or cathartic beginnings, harken to the book’s title. Some prose I wrote to present at sex worker conferences or forums. It took a while before I realized I had an entire book’s worth of writing, and a bit longer still before I felt brave enough to release these collected stories and poems publicly. I view the account of my experiences as more of an emotional journey, rather than a chronological one. Through this approach I hope readers will make there own personal connection to the book, even if they’re life experiences are different from my own.
Q: The book represents nearly fifteen years of collected writings. You’ve had a very diverse writing career—you’ve edited horror and porn anthologies and dipped into the magical realist genre with your first novel Sub Rosa. How did you come to write a non-fictionalized memoir?
A: I believe a voice is a powerful and privileged resource to possess, especially when it comes to something like sex work, which is constantly silenced and stigmatized. Through performing on both small and larger stages, I’ve found that in every audience there is at least one woman (or man) who not only relates to my story, but feels almost desperate to have silence around sex work and survivorship broken. I feel a duty to speak up.
Q: Is there a piece of prose or poetry in the collection that was particularly difficult for you to write or realize, and in turn share with readers?
A: “Lying is the Work” is a personal essay that juxtaposes a bad date I had during the last year of working in the sex trade with my grandfather’s story of joining the Navy at age 17 to fight in WW2. This is one of very few examples where I bring my family history into my work. I love my family and want to protect and spare them of triggers or “digging up dirt.” While I’m proud of who I am, I acutely understand that survivors and sex workers are stigmatized and that this stigma can impact families and loved ones.
Case in point, recently, my grandfather disowned me when I married my wife—a ceremony that everyone in my family attended but for him. Therefore, I feel I can tell a bit of the story between my grandfather and I—in a dignified and objective way—without worrying about him reading it. As an Italian-American immigrant and Navy veteran he has a tremendous story of survival. It’s bitter sweet that I relate to him as a survivor and yet we have no present-day relationship. This makes the personal essay very difficult for me.
Q: RADAR Productions recently awarded you the 2012 Eli Coppola Memorial Poetry Chapbook Prize for “How I got My Tattoo.” How does the title poem of that particular collection fit into your personal narrative in How Poetry Saved My Life?
A: What an honour to win the Eli Coppola Memorial Poetry Prize, and just before I launch How Poetry Saved My Life! I have a quite a few titles like How Poetry Saved My Life and “How I Got My Tattoo” that are posed like answers to questions. Sex workers and survivors get asked questions all the time. I could over-simplify all these questions to essentially, “How did this happen to you.” I hate that question—the question implies that being a survivor or being a sex worker is outside the norm and needs explanation—when in fact these experiences are very common. Nonetheless, I also sympathize that people need to ask questions and discuss. The titles that I’ve written as answers to questions are there to promote discussion in a proud and creative way.
Q: In the book you cite author Jeanette Winterson and “powerful women whose voices have been cut short” among your inspirations. Would you tell us more about how you have been influenced by literary and activist voices in your life?
A: I was in my teens and early 20s in the 1990s, and was gobsmacked by the Riot Grrl movement. My first serious girlfriend introduced me to the feminist music and zine culture and listing to Team Dresh and Bikini Kill gave me the idea that I too had something to say. Not only where these voices powerful, but they were accessible. I didn’t need education to understand the feminist politicking of Riot Grrl. But after being introduced to feminist art and literature, I wanted to learn more. This was probably the first time I ever wanted to learn or read anything. I began reading Jeanette Winterson, Beth Goobie, Larissa Lai, Evelyn Lau, Sharon Olds, Lucille Clifton, Michelle Tea, Sarah Schulman. Finally, I understood the comfort and solidarity that could be found through books.
Q: You’ve toured with the Sex Workers Art Show, created short films, as well as performed at a variety of venues including the Vancouver Art Gallery. How does your performance and film background compliment or deviate from your writing?
A: Performing at galleries or appearing in my own films has helped me get into my body. Like many survivors, I’m inclined to live in my head, my imagination is a real sanctuary. Performance art has allowed me to embody the themes and emotions of my work and connect more closely with audience. I really feel the work when I’m hurling my body around a stage. In turn, this has helped me sink into a deeper connectivity to my written work.
Q: You now teach creative writing classes—some to queer and at-risk youth. Can you say more about the potential of art to be a survival skill and lifeline to others?
A: Something very palpable occurs when a person writes their story. It doesn’t have to be for future publication, but simply to put memories on paper and/or to read them in a room full of safe, supportive listeners. It’s an investment in one’s self. It’s an act of acknowledging one’s worth. It’s making the unspoken, heard. This can have life-changing impacts on people who have been shut down or silenced. Each time I run a creative writing workshop I see a little bit of change happen. “Thank you for listening,” my students always say to me. They don’t need to thank me; they should thank themselves. They do transformative work when they use their voices.
Laura Antoniou & I were guests on Tristan Taormino’s Sex Out Loud podcast this past Friday, and the show is now up & available to listen to online.
This week’s episode of Sex Out Loud has two different guests talking about their work giving voice to sexual minorities, specifically the leather & BDSM communities. Laura Antoniou, one of the most published female writers of the queer/BDSM erotic genre, will discuss her popular Marketplace erotic novel series as well as the publication of her first mystery novel, The Killer Wore Leather. Sinclair Sexsmith is the kinky butch top behind the the popular Sugarbutch Chronicles. They’re also a writer, storyteller, and performer who studies critical feminist & gender theory, sexual freedom, social change activism, archetypes, and the tantric and buddhist spiritual systems.
Check it out!
I—like, I suspect, many of you—was first introduced to Jack Halberstam’s work in college, where I read Female Masculinity in a gender studies class. Jack’s work has been largely influential on the gender binary critiques and to many people that I have studied and read since, and of course influential on my own ideas about gender and performance and masculinities too.
And, he’s got a new book out! The book is called Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal and it’s published by Beacon Press, officially released yesterday, September 18th. It’s an incredibly readable book—like Jack said in my interview with him for Lambda Literary Foundation earlier this year, it’s on an unacademic press and intended for a wider audience. So even if you’re not a theory buff—and I’m not, though I do love theory—it’s a very good read.
A Few Quick Questions for Jack Halberstam
(It’s intimidating to interview one of your mentors! Thanks Jack!)
1. When you discuss the concept of “gaga feminism,” which you say is a feminism “that recognizes multiple genders, that contributes to the collapse of our current sex-gender systems, [and is] a feminism less concerned with the equality of men and women and more interested in the abolition of these terms as such,” (p25), I find myself identifying deeply. I run in many communities which are more invested in that than in the analyzation of the male-female binary, and often feel disillusioned with the mainstream feminism movements which have less concepts of breaking down the system and more that seem to maintain it. How can gaga feminism help queers and genderqueers and other marginalized communities get our message farther into the mainstream, to continue to influence the larger culture? What barriers keep our gaga feminist perceptions of gender from reaching the mainstream, and do you have any suggestions for how to continue the activism of working to break down those barriers?
Great questions Sinclair! As you say, it is frustrating to see so many people acting as if male and female are totally stable categories and as if all the changes in technology, in social formations, in sexual identities and in the visibility of queer bodies have made no difference whatsoever! I hoped and still hope that GAGA FEMINISM would have some appeal as a more mainstream and readable book and that it would be able to circulate complex ideas about sex, gender and fast-changing technologies of gender in an accessible and fun way. That said, there have been a few books out recently like How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, The End of Men by Hanna Rosin and Marry Him by Lori Gottlieb that purport to be feminist analyses of men, women, marriage, work, love and family but actually they mostly shuffle around the same old cliches about hetero reproduction and hope for the best. GAGA FEMINISM begins with the premise of taking a longer tradition of anti-marriage, anti-capitalist feminism seriously and joining it to new queer theory and queer forms of life.
2. I loved your writings about The Kids Are All Right (which start on p54). I enjoyed that film quite a lot and have had many elaborate conversations about its construction, but you articulated some new things I hadn’t heard. I am especially curious about what you said about depictions of relatively sexless long term (lesbian) relationships, as I have been theorizing a lot lately about keeping the spark going in a long term commitment. You’ve been with your partner for many years now—do you have any tips or suggestions about staying sexually connected and satisfied while building something long term?
Well, my point there was that straight culture likes the idea that lesbian long-term relationships are more prone to “fizzle out” that others because women are the kindling rather than the spark when it comes to romance…pardon the metaphor but you get my point. Heterosexual mainstream conversations about desire love to depict women as the ones who create an environment for love and romance and men as the ones who set the whole thing on fire. For this reason, when you have two women, the old narrative goes, you have a lot of love and cuddling but no real…spark! So, The Kids Are All Right feeds into that narrative and assigns all the sexual energy to the sperm donor dad. But that was just one of many reasons I found the film disappointing. As for tips on staying sexually connected etc…sorry dude, I am a terrible advice columnist!!
3. You talk quite a bit about butches and butchness in this book (p86). I do a lot of organizing around butch identity and community, including some work for the BUTCH Voices conferences (and of course your book Female Masculinity has been a huge influence on my understandings of genders). You mention the concept of stone and melting the stone in particular, which is something that I discuss and think about often. I tend to define stone as “having control over how one’s body is touched,” which is not quite the same as impenetrable or not ever receiving sexual pleasure or stimulation. Have you noticed that the caricature of stone butches as “rigid or immobile or frozen” (p86) has changed as we are entering an age of gaga feminism, with more depth of understanding and multiplicity in our definitions of gender roles in general? How can we continue to break down those frozen stereotypes and build something unique and open, with more room for people to be expressing themselves authentically and not feeling stuck in limitations of labels?
Yeah, definitely. I was just using the example of the stone butch in GAGA FEMINISM in order to say that we assign pathological narratives to masculine behavior when it appears in the butch (inflexibility or impenetrability becomes neurotic) but not when it appears in a man. If the man does not want to be penetrated, then he is, well, normal! And in fact, if he does want to be penetrated, then he is suspect. I think GAGA FEMINISM is about recognizing the rapidly generated new forms of desire, embodiment, orientation that proliferate all around us and developing new systems for naming them, owning them and inhabiting them.
J. JACK HALBERSTAM is the author of four books, including Female Masculinity and The Queer Art of Failure. Currently a professor of American studies and of ethnicity and gender studies at the University of Southern California, Halberstam regularly speaks and writes on queer culture and gender issues and blogs at BullyBloggers.
Giveaway! I have one copy for one lucky commenter …
Thanks to Beacon Press, I’ve got an extra copy of Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal to give away. I’ll pick a number at random on Monday, the 24th of September, and the corresponding commenter will get the copy.
In order to enter, simply leave a comment on this post and tell me one influential book you’ve read about feminism, or one book about gender, or something you love about Jack Halberstam, or something else entirely. Make sure you leave a valid email address; anyone can enter. I prefer to mail the book to someone in the US, because I’ll be paying for postage—so if you are outside the US, I might ask you to kick me a few bucks to cover the cost of mailing you the book.
Tomorrow’s Gaga Feminism Blog Tour post will be at The Qu—check it out.
Gaga Feminism was sent to me from Beacon Press to review. Thanks Beacon! Pick up your own copy at your local feminist queer bookstore, or, if you must, from Amazon.
I tossed up a couple things yesterday without really giving a proper hello on my return from SXSW and Austin, Texas. Hello!
My (metaphorical) account of the weekend and what I think of Austin and such is up today on my Sex Is column, Mr. Sexsmith’s Other Girlfriend, titled Mr. Sexsmith Goes To SXSW and Takes a Lover.
The Engaging the Queer Community panel at SXSW and the Oil Can Harry’s meet-up were a big success. I hear the panel was videotaped, hopefully the video will be available online sometime soon, I’ll certainly let you know where you can find it.
But meanwhile, there’s some other media and interviews with me floating around the web and new this week:
- The Feministing Five: Sinclair Sexsmith: “Sinclair Sexmith is a sex blogger who writes the Sugarbutch Chronicles: The Sex, Gender and Relationship Adventures of a Kinky Queer Butch Top. She’s been blogging about sex and gender for several years now, and at Sugarbutch she blogs about everything from getting past old heartbreaks to sex with her current girlfriend to her own evolving masculine identity. When I asked her about how she manages writing for a public audience about such private things, she said, “the sex is actually easier to write about than the emotional complications.” When I asked if she adheres to any ground rules for she discloses about her sex life, she said “there are no hard and fast rules,” at which point I giggled, revealing myself to be twenty-two going on twelve.”
- Feast of Fun Podcast: Butching it Up with Sinclair Sexsmith: “For gay, lesbian, bi and trans folks telling our stories is vital to our personal growth. The internet creates a safe space for people to discover the sexier side of themselves by reflecting on their experiences with others. Today we continue our series of interviews with well known bloggers who know how make it happen. We have kinky writer, queer butch top, Sinclair Sexsmith of the Sugarbutch Chronicles. Listen as we chat with Sinclair about her journey writing erotica, coming out in your blog and New York City’s Lesbian Sex Mafia!”
- Queerty: How Can We Shift the Focus of Queer Media From Homophobes and Lady Gaga To Actual LGBTs? – Video interviews with all the SXSW queer panelists. “Looking around the SXSW Interactive’s first-ever LGBT panel, “Engaging the Queer Community”, I saw a shrunken pink-haired woman wearing steel-toed platform boots and green stockings walking past a large-nosed horn rimmed kid with horse teeth and acne scars, and I realized that even though we’re all adults now, we very much remain the theater fags and lunch geeks we were in high school—conflicted and sightly scared people looking for a voice. But why then are our personal stories so often trumped by the like of homophobic senators and, bless her, Lady Gaga?”
I kind of miss Austin already. I swear I felt my anxiety and stress level raise to ORANGE ALERT as soon as a woke up the morning after my return to New York City. Hard not to be reminded that there are easier places to live.
I’m still behind on, well, everything, so this is just links for now, no commentary. I had fun recording these interviews and recommend their podcasts in general – lots of interesting guests!
Sex, Love, and Intimacy Podcast episode 92 with Chip August. “Sinclair Sexsmith defies categorization. He’s a self described lesbian, kinky writer, queer butch top, feminist sex educator in New York City. Join us as we talk about gender expression, identities, labels, transcending the mutually exclusive binaries, queer culture, concepts of how gender identity and sexual identity intersect, butch/femme roles as a language of desire, how labels can be restrictive or liberating and so much more. And don’t miss the exercise for you to try at home.”
Masocast with Unspeakable Axe and me: Could You Just Use Your Fist? “Sinclair talks about gender, swagger, sex in public, cock confidence, how she’s having the best sex of her life and more.”
Download the mp3 files directly from the websites, or subscribe to the podcasts using something like iTunes.
When I went on that gender tirade back in August, Cody & I talked a bit about the butch/femme identities, and I was really curious about the ways that my arguments translated into arguments for why trans identities are subversive genders as well. He was graceous enough to agree to be interviewed about his gender opinions. Here’s the transcript.
Sinclair: I’m looking over the transcript of the chat we had a few weeks ago about butch/trans identity…
Cody: Okay. Are we beginning the interview? Should I put on my game face? Not that gender is a game or a construct. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that Id joke about something so serious.
Sinclair: That’s a great place to start. If gender is not a game or a construct, or a “role,” what is it?
Cody: Well, Actually, I was kidding. I think it’s all of those things, and none of them really. Gender is whatever you make of it. I also think (and I’m going to get a little woo woo here so bare with me) that gender is also this internal thing something you feel, some, internal energy that informs you about yourself. This is obviously informed by outside forces etc. But not completely. Does that make sense?
Sinclair: That absolutely makes sense. I’ve been writing a lot on Sugarbutch about the ways that butch/femme are not reproductions of some sort of heteronormativity, and I came up with a couple of major arguments about why those genders, though appearing to be hetero, are actually subversive of the whole sex/gender binary, and compulsory gender as a whole. And while I was writing this stuff out I kept thinking, you know, I bet these same arguments apply to the trans identity as well. It’s frustrating – I still hear so much transphobia kicked around in the queer/dyke communities.
Cody: Yeah, there’s a lot of that. But watch out, we all THINK about kicking back now and again.
Sinclair: Oh yes. I kick back, that’s for damn sure. So my question is, how do you think those arguments translate? More specifically, how is the trans identity subversive? Because it appears to be a heteronormative reproduction, especially (obviously) when the trans man is straight, or dating femmes or straight girls.
Cody: Well, the simple answer is that simply by the nature of my physical body [my trans identity] is subversive. And when I am dating femmes, the identity is subversive for a lot of reasons, but if we want to get down to bones here, I’d say the ways in which we have sex are subversive. Also, here’s something I realized the other day that made me laugh: I can never ever have straight by the book hetero-sex. It is physically impossible for me to do so. If that doesn’t make me fucking goddamn subversive I don’t know what does!
Sinclair: I love it! Hell yeah!
Cody: To get back to the question: what I mean about the nature of my physical body, is actually something I’ve been having a weirdly large amount of dialogue with folks about lately. This discussion of my junk (and by junk I mean my genitals) because that’s really what it comes down to in most discussions about trans shit: “What have you got between your legs?” Which has, frankly been making me very angry lately. Because, hell, I’m not a shy dude, but when people (even people in my queer community) are asking me about my dick (or my cunt) I feel kind of well, a little put out. But then again, this is how we end up understanding each other. By our genitals and how we use them to fuck, and how all of this informs who we are presenting to the world (meaning our gender).
Sinclair: Interesting – so that equation is, genitals plus fucking equals gender presentation. That seems accurate, although I would say that’s not everything that goes into gender.
Cody: No, of course not. But for the purposes of this particular vein, yes.
Sinclair: Would you tell me more about what you said about the nature of your physical body? I’m not sure I understand what you mean by that yet. By the nature of a trans body? Born into one sex, but altering it physically?
Cody: Yes. I mean, the fact that I’ve altered or am merely presenting my body in a different way from which I was told upon birth it was, makes the mere nature of it subversive. I mean, it’s a small part. But it’s an argument I like to use, because it’s easy to understand, and If people make you feel uncomfortable (which you totally aren’t, just an example) it’s a good shut down.
Sinclair: Ah I see. And it’s subversive because our sex/gender binary paradigm says that your body informs your nature? Or – your biology informs your self, perhaps is a better way to put it? I don’t want to put words in your mouth here.
Cody: Exactly! No you’ve got it. The binary says that my body should inform everything, right? So if I change my body, I’m fucking with the entire paradigm!
Sinclair: I like that. I know what you mean, I feel that way about the butch identity, too. And that’s one piece of that “butch/femme are not reproductions” argument, definitely. That it fucks with the sex/gender paradigm, by its very nature.
Cody: Definitely. The fact that it is NOT what it seems on the surface makes it so subversive.
Sinclair: Are there places that you feel the trans identity does become reproductive, perhaps sometimes in a negative way?
Cody: There are all kinds of ways that the transmale identity can become negatively heteronormative.
Sinclair: You mentioned before that you have noticed trans men rejecting the butch identity when they transition, perhaps because butch never fit them, and yet that’s something that you have held onto.
Cody: Yes! [I did not] reject the butch identity in favor of my trans identity. It’s more about embracing it because it INFORMS my trans identity. I figured about butch stuff (re: myself) around a similar time in my life that I was discovering trans stuff.
Sinclair: The identities seem closely aligned – or can be. Some of my best trans guy friends have explored so much about butchness with me.
Cody: Its funny, my best friend and I would sit down, and he would tell me about butch stuff, and it was SO HARD for me to understand it (because I was scared I think) and I would explain Trans-ness to him and he would balk. Now, well, now we are both butch trans men.
Sinclair: What changed? Was there a moment when butchness “clicked” with you?
Cody: Well, I think we were both scared, of all of it, of identity politics. Of talking about all of this. I don’t even think we knew at the time, that what we were talking about was so huge. We were just trying to work things out with ourselves and the people we cared about. God, saying that makes me feel like it used to be so much easier before we had to worry about a whole community, too! I mean, it wasn’t suddenly I passed the butch test with myself, but over a period of time, things started happening that helped me to nurture that part of myself, and understand that’s what I was doing. The other thing [that happened was] that I started meeting femmes. Something that I had never really experienced before. Where I grew up there was an incredibly small pool of queers.
Sinclair: How did that start altering your identity?
Cody: While now my butch identity is strong enough to stand alone, in the beginning [of its development], in order to build yourself up, let’s be honest, we need femmes. Let’s be really honest and say, butches need femmes all of the time. [What changed was that] I stopped feeling so ashamed of the ways in which I was masculine, and the ways I wasn’t. I worked out how to feel less shame about being a butch, and about being a man. The man part took way longer.
Sinclair: What was different about the man part & the butch part?
Cody: The butch part I think was easier, because honestly I had more support from those around me about it. The man part, well, I got a lot of shit about. The man part made me into a patriarch. Dykes, butch dykes, femme dykes, lesbians, straight feminists… In the small community I was working shit out in, the backlash was INCREDIBLE. I didn’t call myself a ‘man’ until I had been out as trans for years, partly because of that. I identified almost exclusively as a Butch-Trans-Boy
Sinclair: That [backlash] is so sad. We need to be allies!
Cody: It is [sad]! I had this idea, that if I didn’t align myself with the identity of being a man, I didn’t have to take responsibility for any misogyny.
Sinclair: Yes! I think that’s the same reason it took me so long to come to a butch identity, because I was picking and choosing very carefully what traits of masculinity I wanted to adopt, and I was scared as hell about betraying my feminist politics and enlightenment.
Cody: Funny, when you are trans, when your gender is male, no matter your history, you’ve got to ‘step up to the plate’ about it. It was like, white guilt. Plus, being a boy is all about fun and flirting and whatever. It’s easy!
Sinclair: That’s a huge concept. So, dare I ask? How does one do that? Step up to the plate about it?
Cody: Take fucking responsibility for yourself! Stop forgetting about your feminism because you have passing privilege. I think it’s almost more subversive to be butch, or to be a man, and be a feminist, if you are stepping up to it.
Sinclair: I like that. Is this why we have a serious lack of butches (and/or trans feminists) but we have this new fad of “boi” and “bro”? So many dykes I meet who I would perhaps label as butch tell me they don’t identify as such, but sometimes do identify as boi.
Cody: I think so. I think that’s a big fucking part of it. It’s fear. It’s [seen as] not hot to be a butch, or a man. Because you have to work for it.
Sinclair: It amazed me how much I felt socially policed while I was still coming to this butch identity. All those comments from other butches about toughness, competition, objectifying women. I still get those comments – they just don’t effect me as they used to. One comment would throw me for a loop for days.
Cody: Every time someone put down my butchness, or my male-ness, I regressed like YEARS in my discovery and comfortability with it.
Sinclair: [Masculine identities are] so sensitive! I wonder if this is also what teenage boys go through, all that fag/pussy-bashing stuff.
Cody: Homophobia: the deconstruction of masculinity. Homophobia is all about the construction of masculinity. It’s more about gender than sexuality – sexuality is a part of it, but its more about gender. It’s all about ‘othering’
Sinclair: And [it’s about] misogyny. I would say that’s perhaps because masculinity has historically been defined as not-woman, not-female, not-feminine, and as the gender revolution opens up more and more places for women to occupy, and expands the definition of feminity, that the space that masculinity can occupy becomes smaller and smaller.
Cody: Instead of cutting out any way that it’s okay to be masculine, why can’t we just look at better ways to be masculine?
Sinclair: Which is why I still think we need a masculine-gender revolution. It’s brewing, I think, and trans guys are at the forefront.
Cody: I think you are so right! But we aren’t alone, I think butches are up there on the line with transdudes about this masculine gender revolution. I think we have to hold each other up. This may all sound very idealistic, and utopian, but you’ve got to dream right?
Sinclair: Absolutely. This is what I aim for, even if I feel that it’s going to be a hard bumpy road to get there.
Cody: Oh, man, is it EVER.
Sinclair: So how do we encourage the butches & trans men to be aligned? For some reason, we are often so threatened of each other.
Cody: I think by doing what you and I are doing right now: by fucking talking to each other. By realizing that we’ve got a lot in common, even if it’s scary. By being okay with the fact that this doesn’t mean either one of us is presenting ourselves wrongly. Trans men aren’t ‘abandoning’ the community, and butch women aren’t too scared to ‘man up.’
Sinclair: Well said – that neither of us are presenting ourselves wrongly. That’s a big part of the intimidation factor, isn’t it? That these identities are so fragile, so hard to grow and to maintain, but then when we see someone with something so close to us but very different it becomes a worry that somewhere I’ve made a mistake.
Cody: Exactly. Also, we’ve got to keep in mind, that for some trans men, the ‘trans’ part of our identity fades once we have passing privilege and we’ve all got to respect that. I think that the queer community has a serious peter pan complex going on. Butch ‘bois’ and tranny ‘bois.’
Sinclair: So, you’re talking about respect a seeming rejection of queerness?
Cody: To be honest, there isn’t a cut and dry answer to it (which I think you know and is why its so hard). Every single trans man is different. Sometimes, it IS about rejecting queerness.
Sinclair: Of course. I definitely agree with you about the Peter Pan complex – especially when it comes to the butch/male/boi/tranny boy identities. It’s safer to stay young, perhaps? Not as much examination of identity is required?
Cody: Exactly, and its CUTE, right?! It’s so cute to never grow up.
Sinclair: It’s safer, too. And cute means not threatening. Because when women move into a masculine identity, they are moving UP in the hierarchy, which is threatening.
Cody: Uh huh. Not threatening means no need to examine masculinity means no responsibility. “Oh! Isn’t it cute that that little butch boi just called his partner a bitch?” Gross.
Sinclair: That’s an aspect of masculinity that I don’t want to take on, that I have worked SO HARD to reject. This is why we need a masculine manifesto and revolution!
Cody: You are very right! Also, the word revolution gives me such a hard-on for change!
Sinclair: Oh, that is seriously hot.
Cody: Of course! T-shirts anyone? Also, I really appreciate you even asking these questions about how to not hate on the trans. :)
Sinclair: Thanks! And likewise I really appreciate you answering my questions! I suppose the last thing I want to ask you is something I hesitate to bring up, which is that idea about trans-ness as a fad. it is definitely becoming more prevalent, and it does make me sad to loose the butches, and I am concerned about it as a ‘trend’.
Cody: Mm…Okay. Well, I want to tell you first that I’m glad you brought it up. It’s a hard question to answer/dialogue about.
Sinclair: It is hard to talk about. ‘Cause, you know, I don’t want to invalidate anyone’s identity. But it definitely comes up in conversation; at least, it does with the dykes. Not so much when I’m talking to trans guys.
Cody: Because I think this is why butches and transmen have a lot of disconnect sometimes, this issue puts us all on the defensive.
Sinclair: But at the same time, I know people who have transitioned and then transitioned BACK, I know people who have ALMOST transitioned and then at the last minute decided not to. It makes me nervous that younger and younger kids are doing this seemingly on a whim.
Cody: Here’s the thing. I think that in some ways it is becoming a fad. Just like when all the girls in high school I knew were bi. Yes, I’m comparing the two. This is VERY controversial of me to say and if a lot of dudes read this they might vote me off the island. But sometimes I feel like my personal struggle is getting fucked with and devalued because dudes are making this whole trans thing into a big goddamn joke. Like its something fun. Here’s the secret: Being trans ain’t fun most of the time. It’s not fun to realize that you feel fucking uncomfortable in your skin, or uncomfortable with the way your gender is in the world. It SUCKS. It ain’t fun to get your shit cut open and cut out and stick yourself with a needles every two weeks for the rest of your life. But, young (and by young I mean, new to transition) dudes are making it all into this GAME. It makes me very …well, it makes me very angry. My fucking life and experience isn’t a game, and it ain’t fun. It wasn’t EASY for me to, figure shit out, to be alone, to find a doctor who would give me T, to pay for surgery, etc. Also, I think its GREAT when people fuck with gender for themselves, when they work out how they feel most comfortable, I think that’s AWESOME ‘cause that’s what I did, am doing. But don’t make me feel like shit ‘cause my struggle doesn’t align with your PARTY.
Sinclair: So what is that other part for you – you don’t align with the party?
Cody: I just got so hot under the collar. Okay, I guess what I’m saying is, when people turn all of this gender business into a big game, it’s a way in which they aren’t willing to examine their privilege. Because that’s hard, right? My struggle don’t play. My life is hard, and I’m down for it. I’m down to work on it.
Sinclair: Ah, so it’s about privilege and examination? That makes sense. That’s exactly the places where gender is the most frustrating for me, skating by on some sort of butch/masculine privilege without even realizing that’s what it is, no examination, no understanding of what you’ve taken on.
Cody: It’s like walking around with a bandana tied over your eyes, and putting your nasty little fingers everywhere.
Sinclair: I don’t know, maybe for some people this identity comes more “naturally”? I just feel like I really really had to WORK at mine.
Cody: I mean, its all ‘natural’ in a way, cause it ends up making sense and feeling like you are at home when you work it out. It takes a much stronger person to realize something about their identity, feel comfy in it, finally! After all of this time! And then KEEP working on it, to keep improving upon what is there and makes you feel good.
Sinclair: Yeah, it really does take constant work, I definitely agree. Everything can be refined, everything is a process, all that. And gender is so complicated! We live within this huge gender system, and it is the source of major agony/pain for pretty much everyone involved, in my opinion. Those places where gender is liberational, and subversive, and fabulous, they are worth navigating the fucked up system for. But man that takes a lot of work.
Cody: Very, very true! All of it. Why can’t we take the shit we need to work on, plop it right down into a comfy space, get out the glue sticks and go at it?
Sinclair: Glue sticks! I love it. I guess first we have to MAKE a comfy space, for everybody involved, right? A forum in which to discuss these things, for as many people as possible. Which is definitely one of the goals of Sugarbutch — to bring this stuff TO LIGHT so that people feel more comfortable exploring, sharing, and articulating to begin with.
Cody: Which is hard, cause we are an exclusive goddamned bunch, aren’t we? Our communities are so INTENTIONAL, that I’m not willing to compromise. But, if we keep creating dialogue and space for those we WANT to work on this with, it will bow out. Get bigger. We are talking grass roots here. But that’s where I operate best. With my hard-knuckled fists working the wood of the problem. Yo! That’s why we butch! That’s why femmes are femme! Because we WORK.
Sinclair: It’s that old quote from Airen Lydick: “Femme is knowing what you’re doing.” As in, being aware and conscious of the identity you are developing and presenting and taking on. And maybe that comes back to other gender questions I have, too, about how to view these roles as celebratory rather than confining, as liberational rather than limiting — by creating dialogue and space to explore all aspects of these complicated identities.
Any closing thoughts?
Cody: Just that this is the beginning of the conversation. Include my email address (email@example.com) and my blog address (codycoquet.blogspot.com), and encourage people to write if they want to discuss/ask anything of me.
Sinclair: Thank you, so much, for the conversation.
Naked on the Internet: Hookups, Downloads, and Cashing in on Internet Sexploration by Audacia Ray
Seal Press, 2007
You know how they say that the first test – and drive – of new technology is porn? Well, we folks who have been around on the ‘net for a while know a lot about all the various aspects of sex on the internet, and there is a lot to tell.
Dacia’s relatively new to the online sex world, by her own admission; in her introduction she gives a brief history of her own path to blogging and the ‘net, which began in late 2003 and took off in 2004. This is not to overlook, however, that she has become a major player in the sex blogger circles, especially here in New York City. And having been on the periphary of those circles for a few years now, myself, I know the kind of pull and influence and impact she has had.
It makes sense, then, that as a social scientist interested in sex and technology and the internet, Dacia would come to writing and researching a book like Naked on the Internet. In it, she chronicles all sorts of online sexual explorations and avenues, gives a history of where the internet has come from (BBSes, telnet boards – remember those?), and even some hints at where it’s going (cyberdildonics come to mind).
For me, the most interesting content were the chapters on online dating and also the sex blogging, partly because that is where I am the most connected, and also because (it seems) that is where Dacia has the most knowledge and presence as well. Other parts of the book were much more of an observed subculture then organized and reproduced for the sake of recording the various aspects of sex online.
This book is unique and singular – since online sexuality is, though extremely common, still quite taboo, there have not been a lot of studies or records kept of what is happening, how people are using this new medium, yet. I have no doubt that it will continue to be explored and we will keep gaining new insight and cultural significance from the online sex world, and that it will have – and already has had – a significant impact on a whole era’s sexual growth and, ahem, sexploration.
Don’t forget to visit Waking Vixen, or check out Dacia’s other recent accomplishment, the film The Bi Apple.
ps … I was interviewed for this book a few months back, and a couple of my quotes are in there, oh, somewhere.
Questions from Viviane over at the Sex Carnival
When did you start blogging?
in 1998 I started the only feminist blog there was called Feminist Media Watch. it was collaborative, and got extremely popular, at one point we had about twenty-five authors and had very high traffic. I’ve had a personal blog here or there since about then too, which has moved around.
What do you like about blogging?
my most successful blog projects have always been deeply personal, semi-anonymous explorations of my relationships, sexuality, and personal dramas. I’ve met some fantasic and wonderful people through my blogs, many of which have stayed in my life for many years.
Is blogging a major or minor way of connecting to other people for you?
Both, I suppose; it is a major source of deep connection for me, in that I am often sharing serious and intimate information about myself, but I do a lot of socializing in my peer groups in person too. So though it is major, it is not my only source.
Where’s your blog? Do you use a free hosted service (Blogger,Wordpress, Livejournal, AOL, Google Pages, etc.) or do you have your own domain and web server?
Both; I have four domains, and accounts at blogger and wordpress. I primarily blog at a blogger account at the moment, the others are more stagnant.
What do you do to promote your blog or your writing (using tags in your post, blog roll, del.icio.us, Digg, Pingoat)?
very little, actually. I always visit my commenter’s websites and try to link to them, to encourage them to come back and comment/write more, and I go to their sites and comment on their writing too. so I guess I’m more into individual advertising than any sort of major site promotion. Every once in a while I get on a kick and try to make my profile on technorati or feedburner fancy, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. I contribute to sugasm sometimes, that always enhances my traffic. Other than that? I try to write every day, so people will visit every day, but that’s about it.
A conversation with Morgan. In print, it seems so long! It didn’t feel that long when we were chatting.I have more to say, especially on the subject of the New York poetry competition I am judging next week that asked me to edit my bio and omit the words ‘queer’ and ‘butch’. but that’ll have to wait until later.
my favorite way to come is: strapped on & fucking, missionary style, while she whispers in my earthe way I come the hardest is: when she goes down on me
what I think about to tip myself over the edge: easing my big cock into her mouth or cunt
what scenario I imagine when I’m alone: most often? a threesome; my position in it varies, and I’m kind of everybody. A is strapped on and standing, B is sucking her off. B is kneeling over C’s face. C is lying on her back, sucking B’s cunt and masturbating, until A stops the blow job and begins fucking C, sometimes in the ass. I read it in one of Nancy Friday’s ‘women’s erotic fantasies’ books when I was a teenager. (I suppose I should write out this story.)
what I crave: blow jobs, fucking her strapped on, feeling her come while I’m on top of her, hearing her cry out from pain & pleasure
… and you?