Posts Tagged ‘privilege’
Parks Dunlap. parksdunlap.wordpress.com
1. What insight about polyamory/open relationships would you share with your younger self?
(I’m currently in my early twenties, so my younger self would be nineteen and stubbornly monogamous.) I would tell her, Working two jobs is not the way to be so busy you won’t form crushes on other people than your partner. You will still fall in love with about three people you shouldn’t have. Don’t get married just yet, but you’ll figure that one out. Nonmonogamy is not a quick fix solution, but it will feel a whole lot better than repeating, “you are monogamous. You are monogamous. Focus,” to yourself all the time. BDSM is a significant part of the reason you are nonmonogamous. And it is okay to want that. This is all going to be really hard, and it/s going to feel like you are starting over, but this is going to be magic, I promise.
2. What has been the hardest thing about navigating multiple relationships, and how have you overcome that?
The hardest thing about navigating multiple relationships has been acknowledging the shame that comes with wanting, with desire, and with breaking away from queer assimilationist relationship expectations. It is often hard to feel wanted, and to want. And it is really hard for me to trust that its okay to be a big slut. I’m from a conservative southern family, so rejecting and fucking within that socialization is hard work.
The other thing that is often hard checking my privilege and learning how to be an ally. This is a constant practice outside of and in relationships. I think that it is often hard to see my relationships as non-neutral ground, and see the way social structures affect my relationships. For example, a partner of mine does not have the hours to date other people because she works a full time job and goes to school full time. I have the class privilege that I do not need to work a full time job while in school. We have had to discuss the complicated feelings that come with this difference in our lives, and the jealousy that comes up when I have time, money, and energy to date and she does not.
I have not overcome either of these things, but I have found things that help. Asking for affirmation from my partners and poly friends helps with the guilt, and my two sisters are really supportive of my dating multiple people, which is super helpful. The privilege and ally thing is going to be something I work at my entire life. I have learned that shutting up when called in, and taking notes during those long processing conversations is really helpful. Google is also an excellent resource.
3. What has been the best thing about being open/poly?
How hard it is. It is constantly pinning me into a corner and forcing me to look at my own vulnerability. It has really helped me to grow as an individual. Also I really love playing the game of “when I grow up and have babies with all my queer poly friends what color are we going to paint the porch?”/having queer Dad house butch dreams.
4. Anything else you’d like to add?
I have been so impressed with the majority of queer poly folks I have befriended, worked with, and admired from afar. I think that poly done in a radical context can be serious political work. And if anyone ever has the chance to hang out with Joy Fairfield, who presented at this year’s Open SF conference, ask her about her Rhizomatic Intimacy lecture. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
- September 9th: Billy Lucas, 15, in Indiana, killled himself over anti-gay bullying.
- September 13th: Cody Barker, 17, in Wisconsin, killed himself over anti-gay bullying.
- September 18th: Seth Walsh, 13, in California, hanged himself over to anti-gay bullying, then spent ten days on life support before being pronounced dead on September 28th.
- September 23rd: Asher Brown, 13, in Houston, TX, killed himself over to anti-gay bullying.
- September 29th: Tyler Clementi, 18, of Ridgewood, NJ is presumed dead after jumping from the George Washington Bridge after being humiliated online for his sexual orientation.
That’s five. Five people, five boys, who could have grown up to be part of our world, part of our community, part of gay activism, or who could have, at the very least, grown up. Five boys since school started less than a month ago.
This isn’t new, of course. That’s On July 9th, Justin Aaberg, 15, in Minnesota killed himself over to anti-gay bullying. His mom is attempting some activism in dealing with her grief, but clearly we need more.
Whatever we’ve been doing isn’t working well enough yet, because this keeps happening.
I don’t really know what to say about it, I’m just moved by these stories rolling in, and Kristen, a former middle school teacher, has been upset about it all day, and we’ve been thinking.
Here’s some resources I found, places working on specifically this issue.. If you’ve got money to throw their way, and if you’re moved and shocked and outraged and sad like I am, I’m sure they would not mind your support.
- I’m From Driftwood: true stories by gay people from all over
- The Trevor Project: help prevent teen suicide by promoting mental health and positive self-esteem. Nationwide 24/7 online chat or phone hotline 866-488-7386 for gay youth.
- The brilliant book, Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein (aka Auntie Kate). Read it, if you haven’t. Give it to a teacher you know. Send it to your high school’s librarian. Put it in the hands of those who need it. See also hellocruelworld.net and #stayalive.
- Dan Savage and his partner Terry have launched the It Gets Better project, which is a fancy way to say they have a YouTube channel asking for video submissions to gay youth telling them that it gets better. I know things don’t just magically “get better,” and that there are many, many factors keeping people oppressed, but it is so important that kids hear that life goes on, gets better, changes, that there is support out there for us. Below is Dan & Terry’s kickoff video.
What else? What can we do? What are you doing?
One more thing:
To Belle, and to the femmes I’ve dated and fucked and longingly admired: Thank you.
Thank you for swooning over my neckties and collared shirts, my perfectly messy short hair, my heavy belt buckles and swagger and the way I order wine for you. Thank you for having my favorite whiskey at your house for me, just for me, thank you for dressing up and looking your best, celebrating the costume of femininity, for putting time into your hair and makeup and outfit and shaved legs and stockings and lingerie straps that bite into flesh and shin splints from high heels and freezing legs from short skirts and the eyelash batting and the way I feel like a million bucks when I’ve got you on my arm.
I appreciate your gender expression, deeply, because I make more sense when I’m next to you. To quote Cody: “Let’s be honest: we need femmes.” I didn’t get who I was until I started dating femmes. This identity does not exist in a vacuum, and, for me, requires the duo dynamic inherently.
I have so much reverence for the femme aesthetic. Am I occasionally jealous of your ability to pass? Yes. But I understand – at least a little – the burdon of it, too, and I want you to share that with me. Femininity is assumed to be for the benefit of straight men, and to subvert that can sometimes mean consequences.
Yeah, I get tired of being on the front lines of visibility sometimes. But when I have a femme on my arm, strutting down the street, freshly fucked and we’re melting into each other, everyone who sees us knows what we are, and I love the second glances we get. I love the tiny revolutions that happen in the faces of strangers passing by.
Passing is not always a privilege. Some femmes I know have even said to me that passing is never a privilege, in fact. (I’m not sure I agree entirely, but I understand the argument.) To force someone to admit that it is a privilege is to force a hierarchy, such a power play, such an insecure I’m-better-than-you kind of move.
I’ve joked occasionally that femmes and other passing queers get to hear what straight people say when they don’t know a queer is listening. My lovers have occasionally told me stories of what they heard at work or school and I’m shocked – especially in PC-Seattle where I used to live, I never heard people saying homophobic – or even homo-ignorant – remarks around me, because I am visibly queer, they knew I was listening. As a writer, as an activist, as an observer of human character, I am fascinated by those conversations and interested in access to those places where I cannot go. Likewise, I sometimes find I have access to intimate (bio-hetero-) male conversations, where they let me in as one-of-the-guys and bitch about their wives, tell sexist jokes, or fawn over girls at the bar. A straight girl – and probably femmes – would probably not have access to these conversations.
I’m remembering a conversation I had with my friend and femme spy once upon a time, where she strongly asserted that there is no privilege in passing as straight, especially because sometimes, when she is presumed straight and then outs herself, she actually finds herself in more danger than she was previously and, I believe she argued, she’d be in more danger than someone visibly queer – a butch – because of the perception that her passing was actually deception.
I definitely see her point there, and it makes me feel highly protective and posessive of femmes, to think of the occasional dangerous situations they may be in. I still think there is some privilege in the femme identity – as there is some in the butch identity, some in an androgynous or genderqueer or any other gender identity, isn’t there? If there was no benefit, what use would it be? I suppose “privilege” here though is not the same as “benefit;” one implies a hierarchical gain within social structures.
Maybe I need to back up here. What is privilege? How do we define it? How do we know when we have it, when we don’t? And what, if anything, do we do with it when we have it? What are our responsibilities with privilege, how do we meet them? How do we avoid abusing our privileges?
Uh, I’ll think about that and get back to you. Chime in your two cents if you feel inspired, please.
Ultimately, though, I really want to stress that comparing degrees of oppression is fruitless and purposeless. Who does it help? Do you really feel better after forcing someone to admit that they have privilege? It’s one thing to have a discussion about it, to acknowledge the intricate complexities within identity hierarchies – it’s another thing to play these I’m-better-than-you games.
In response to what Belle wrote about privilege, guilt, and butch/femme:
I can’t speak (write) for all butches, and I do get that some of us have awful things to say about femmes and passing and privilege. I don’t know what to tell you about all of that, except that I think that it’s bullshit. It comes from a misogynistic bullying place where the one who is bullied and oppressed turns around and bullies the femme who is littler than you.
This is male privilege. This is the heteronormative hierarchy.
I don’t feel “more oppressed” than any given femme, and I resent that game of who has more hardship than whom. Division and in-fighting are ways that our marginalized communities stay broken apart instead of banded together. C’mon, remember Lord of the Rings?
Yes, butches are more visible, and therefore, in some situations, easier targets. But femmes are targets, too, and discriminated against. Hell, there are so few of us who even fall into this butch/femme dynamic – why make enemies of each other?
This past week I appeared as a guest on the Diana Cage Show on Sirius OutQ radio, and she’d had a whole segment of conversation before my part (where I performed some poetry and chatted about breakups, smut, and femmes, what else) where she was talking about “butch training,” I shit you not.
“Who trained you?” she asked me.
“I don’t think I was ‘trained’ … do all butches get trained?” I was confused.
“Oh yeah,” she answered.
“What about femmes?”
“Oh, no, they don’t need to be trained.”
Oh man, did my mind boggle. I don’t think she’s right about that, but let’s say, for a minute, that she is. In what do we need training? Was I doing something wrong? Did I need to be trained? Had I already been, and didn’t know it? Who had trained me?
“I’m not sure I was trained …” I said skeptically.
“Yeah, true, you’re a chivalrous butch. An old-school butch,” she said, as if this meant maybe I didn’t need ‘training’ after all?
“Yeah, I am. And a feminist, hardcore.” But I kept thinking. “Maybe my first big love trained me,” I said. She was the first femme I knew and she whispered in my ear, I think you’re butch, and I came a little and threw up at the same time. I watched how she wished her girlfriends would treat her and tried to be that.
And when I thought about it more later, I think it was my mother, my parents, who probably most deserve credit for “training” me in the ways that I take care of myself and others. Isn’t that what we’re speaking of? How we love, how we care, how we expect the partnership dynamic to work? And, fundamentally, if I may interpolate here, I think the “training” refers to those butches who often have grown up tomboys, one-of-the-guys, with a socialized masculinity. Those butches that treat femmes – and women – and, hell, people – with disrespect and dishonor, and I think it has everything to do with the “tough guise” of masculinity.
My point is, this is often the same type of butch (as much as I shudder to sub-categorize) I’ve heard this “femme privilege” argument come from, too. And I resent it, deeply. It saddens and angers me. I don’t know how to encourage a more wholistic, human range of experience in that type of butch (again, I shudder), wish I did.
But. This is what I have to say to Belle, or to any femme who endours that forced guilt about femme privilege:
Yes, passing is sometimes a privilege, but not always. Just like my visibility is sometimes a privilege, but not always. Tell me about times it was a privilege for you, and times it wasn’t, and then ask me about my stories, too. Tell me what it’s like to walk in your shoes. Let me learn from your experience. It’s hard sometimes to be a queer in this heterodominant society, and it’s hard to be a butch or femme in a lesbian community rooted in androgyny and which associates gender oppression with gender expression.
Fuck, can’t we share this burdon? Can’t we pass this weight around, let it be a little lighter between us? I mean, I know I’m a hippie-feminist-do-gooder-pacifist and all, but I believe in the power of community, deeply.