Posts Tagged ‘word reclamation’

Label me, Genderstats

June 3, 2009  |  essays  |  18 Comments
Hello
My name is
Mr. Sinclair Sexsmith
My identity is
academic, activist, BDSM, bookworm, buddhist, butch, compassionate, dominant, dyke, empowered, faggy, female-bodied, female-born, feminist, femme-fucking, femme-loving, Green, genderqueer, gentleman, guy, hippie, intentional, introvert, kinky, lesbian, lover, meditator, metrosexual, open, pervert, poet, prettyboy, pro-label, queer, reclamation, romantic, sacred whore, sadist, sadomasochist, service top, sexsmith, sir, stud, sugarbutch, tantra, theorist, top, transbutch, transmasculine, vegetarian, yogi, wordsmith, writer
What’s yours?

I ran into this Yay genderstats! fill-in-your-own-gender form from a Genderfork link a while ago, I think, but haven’t been able to find it again – I wanted to give the link to the folks at the Northwestern University in Chicago when I did the F*cking with Gender workshop but didn’t find the link. (I still have to write up the workshop notes and resources, which I’ve started, but haven’t finished. Coming, I swear!)

The description says “There are exactly 939 options here, and a total of 4.6469×10282 or 4.6 trenovemgintillion possible combinations, more than there are elementary particles in the universe.” Statistics for this project are also fascinating – 43% of the over 2,000 genderform labels generated included “female” or “intelligent,” but only 6% included “butch.” However, 12% included “femme” – twice as many as butch. Maybe if one added up ALL the femme-like words and ALL the transmasculine butch-like words, they’d be slightly more even, but I think it’s interesting comparing just those two words. More people included “submissive” (21%) than “bottom” (18%), but that claiming those words are more common than “top” (13%) or “dominant” (16%).

Interesting! I mean that’s not exactly a scientific study, but from my experience that is an accurate reflection of the queer communities.

Actually, recently I said I thought it was more common – from my experience only – to run into femmes who are tops, but I’m rethinking that now. (I think I just notice it in a different when a girl is a top, because it means we’re probably not compatible in bed.) Maybe it’s closer to 50/50.

Looking over the list of words, organized in alphabetical order and by frequency, I’m struck that though there are dozens (hundreds?) of words for gender, lots of things about religion and spirituality, lots of general terms for human emotional experiences, some for relationship orientation, but there are very little for class or race. Those things are highly influential to gender identities, too, and should be included, I think. I may just email the creator about that and suggest some additional sections or words.

Have you filled in your own gender/identity yet? I’m not sure my comments will let you paste the whole table into it and publish it accurately, but if you want to paste just the labels part into the comments, I’d be curious to see what other people list. Please share!

Marriage is so gay*

October 24, 2008  |  essays  |  6 Comments

Last week, I dreamt of my future wife.

That’s a strange thing to write down and admit, actually, especially publically; but I thought exactly that when I woke: that was my future wife. I still know exactly how she tasted, smelled, how her waist felt in my arms.

I’m not sure how I feel about marriage, really. My mom has always said I should wait until I’m 30 to get married, and thinks too many people get married too young. I don’t really think the government should have anything to do with my personal relationships, and I don’t think the government should value certain kinds of relationships over others – one man + one woman? What about a triad, a lesbian couple, co-habiting straight men? Who cares how people make a household work, as long as they do?

But: I do believe in commitment, in stating publically that you love someone, in gathering friends & family in a ceremony that celebrates and affirms the difficulty, the support, the community around a relationship.

Since I came to be aware of the inequalities of queer relationships in the eyes of the law in, oh, I don’t know, high school? middle school?, it has just been a given that I couldn’t “actually” get married.

“Whatever,” I told myself. “Like I would get married anyway. Like I want The Church + The State involved in My Relationship.”

And the activist circles I ran in were skeptical of marriage as The Gay Rights Issue: “There is so much to be done!” we argued. “Marriage is such an issue of privilege. What about hate crime legislation, discrimination policies for the workplace, queer homeless youth, AIDS, suicide rates, the drinking/drug problems in the queer communities? What about foster kids and adoption and simply BEING KILLED because of gender and sexual orientation? What about cissexism and trans advocacy?”

Unfortunately, the momentum of queer activism isn’t necessarily in the radical queer youth & college students – it’s with the money. And mostly-white mostly-middle-class homos have already decided what The Gay Issue is: marriage.

It’s a symbol, really: not just a symbol for normalcy, but a symbol for a relationship. And that’s what is at the heart of this movement, the heart of the difference in sexual orientation: the right and ability to choose whom we love, with whom we partner.

While my personal beliefs are still a bit more radical than that, I’ve studied the history of social change enough to know that chnage happens gradually, in pockets, a little bit at a time. I also feel like gay marriage activism is a limited scope – like aiming for the mountaintop instead of the sky – because it still defines marriage as two people, right, we’re still talking about working within the monogamy system here. So while many of our poly friends are going “rah rah gay marriage! And PS, what about us?” the gay marriage activits are kind of saying, “Shhh, we can’t talk about your issues right now.”

But then again, it’s easier to go little-by-little than to overhaul the whole system. It’s a classic social change model conflict – after observing a system of oppression, do we a) work from within it to attempt to change it, or b) throw it out completely and start over? My radicalism wants marriage to be thrown out. I mean really, what good is it? But I feel the same way about other institutions that seem to matter to some feminist theorists and reclaimists, such as Christianity. I don’t personally have any investment in the system of Christianity, so I can’t imagine going inside of it to fix and change the oppression and hierarchical marginalizing structures that are in place – but others do have that investment, and are doing the work to include women in clergy, to research the history of more women saints, of queer history in the church, etc. Lesbian and feminist priests and nuns and churchgoers – what they find in the practice must be worth the work of reclaiming and rebuilding, for them.

Actually, I can draw a parallel here: for me, it is language. I am a poet at heart and never cannot be. People ask me why I use language they deem offensive – dyke, fag, pussy, cunt, slut, butch, femme, queer – and I try to explain it is because I love these words. As if they were delicate glass boxes filled with mud, I pick them up from being buried in the compost heap and wash them, dig the dirt from their creases, make their silver shine, make them see-through again. I am invested in the system of language, even though within it -built into the very makeup – is a hierarchy that says certain people are better, best.

Which brings me to my next point: words. Of course “marriage” is not the same thing as “civil union” or “domestic partnership” – the words are different. “Beautiful” is not the same thing as “cute” or “gorgeous” or “attractive” or “stunning” or “elegant” or “handsome,” right? Those all have slightly different connotations, even if their definitions are overlapping and very similar.

I am a poet. I’ve worked hard to say that sentence. I eat words for breakfast and fall asleep with book after book open on my pillow. I theorize language and meaning and definitions and semantics, revive words that are suffering, influse love and equality and value where I can.

It doesn’t matter how many rights there are in a “civil union” or “domestic partnership,” they will never be marriage, because they are not the same word.

Period.

Mark Twain wrote, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

It is the difference between fire, and a firefly.

Words are not some static, fixed thing. They are living, they have lives and evolutions, they are manifestations of the culture from where they come, in which they are used. We can change them. They do change and evolve and grow to suit the needs of culture – they reflect a culture, but they also shape a culture. A new concept, term, or phrase can define a movement, a change, activism.

Researching all this information about the state of gay marriage in my country recently has really got me thinking about my own future. I don’t come from a very traditional family, I’ve never thought I would have a very traditional wedding – bridesmaids, groomsmen, white dress, any of that. I’ve received some amazing, beautiful, moving photographs from queers over the last few days, and I find a part of me is craving to have some beautiful party, some celebration, where my love and I can costume up and wear cool clothes and be surrounded by our friends looking dashing.

So I have some ideas forming about what I’d do for my own ceremony. No real dealbreakers, just ideas that I like. Although I am really attached to the idea that our first dance would be choreographed – let’s hope my future wife knows how to swing. (Let’s also hope next time I’ll dream her phone number or URL, so I’ll figure out how to contact her.)


* I hate this common use of “gay” and not infrequently call people on it when I hear them say it. But the tension in this sentence – calling marriage “gay” – cracks me up. Kind of like the bumper sticker I saw at Little Sister’s Bookstore in Vancouver, BC many years ago, which read, “Straight people are so gay.” Hah!

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the fate of Bitch Magazine is in your hands

September 16, 2008  |  miscellany  |  1 Comment

Those of you who are RSS readers will not see the small banner in the sidebar about the fate of Bitch Magazine, so I figured I’d give a little heads up here too.

Bitch needs $40,000 by October 15th in order to print the next issue, and is looking for advertisers and donations. Subscribe, subscribe, subscribe – it’s always better to subscribe to a magazine than to buy it on newsstands as the magazine itself gets so much more of the money. Like purchasing the album at an artist’s concert instead of buying it through your local store, even if they are independent and (Perhaps I should take out a Sugarbutch ad!)

Bitch Magazine was instrumental to my identity development as a feminist. I started reading Bitch in 1997 when the sex issue came out, and until very recently I owned every single issue – when I moved from Seattle to New York City in 2004 I donated them all to my college library through the Women Studies librarian, who assured me they’d have a good home.

In 1997, I was just out of high school, still with my high school boyfriend, quickly losing what I thought I already had in a bisexual identity, and quickly discovering more advanced feminist discourse that, ultimately, saved me from myself and my own internalized ideas, especially about what it meant to be an adult woman. I quickly found so many resources to further explore in Bitch Magazine, quickly found other websites and books and authors that I fell in love with, which eventually led me on the path out of my relationship and to coming out, and coming into my own butchness, a few years later.

I love this magazine and I eagerly await and tear through each new issue.

So again, I say, get a subscription, get your mom a subscription, get your best friend a subscription, and donate. Read the entire call for donations over on Bitch’s blog and watch the short video of the editors explaining the crisis.

This Public Service Announcement has been brought to you by the letter B and the most awesome nectarine that is patiently waiting on my desk to be eaten.