Congratulations to FIABGFM of Boston! You've won our AskFannie Halloween Photo Competition! You get a signed picture of ME!

Dear Fannie,

I'm a twenty-something living in Boston. As recently as spring 2007, I was a part of the movement to protect gay marriage in Massachusetts. Now that that battle seems to be won, I'm kind of at a loss as to how to be a queer-friendly activist.

Forced into Apathy by Gay-Friendly Massachusetts


Now that gays and lesbians are now allowed to access to exclusive institutions historically held by a hypocritical heterosexual majority in the great state of Massachusetts, you got nothing left to fight for? I think that your question is indicative of another problem with this mainstream "LGBT" push for gay marriage. Something I like to call Post-homonuptial depression, or the Gay Marriage blues. I am going to assume that you do not consider yourself queer, (as indicated by your qualifier: "queer-friendly") and I would make the argument that you are actually more "Gay-Friendly" than "queer friendly," as your pseudonym suggests. Because while marriage is great if you are a monogamous affluent gay or lesbian white couple, it doesn't actually make great strides for everyone in our here & queer community.

Your question, FIABGFM, is actually very timely. On the Bilerico Project, Marti Abernathy recently commented on Mass Equality's internal discussion on possibly disbanding due to having achieved the pan-ultimate success of marriage equality. To equate gay marriage with true social justice for queer people is a gross miscalculation. Not only does it promulgate the hierarchy of (affluent) gays and lesbians over other queer people; but also marginalize trans and gender variant queer people. What Mass Equality and many gay-marriage-focused "LGBT" activists continue to miss is that gay marriage only benefits one section of our community.

Marriage forces families to fit a western model of the distinct nuclear family, with two parents (arguably one parent, as most dual-partnered couples tend to be inegalitarian when it comes to childcare), and uninterrupted rigid and hierarchical kinship systems. It also constrains sexuality by allowing marriage to further regulate sexual contact not only between heterosexuals, but now homosexuals as well. Rather, we should be advocating for family models that have less regulation and allow for different and varying familial configurations. But, you have all heard my oppositions to gay marriage in previous posts. I want to focus on the positive and how FIABGFM can truly be a queer activist.

One thing is for sure, FIABGFM, there is plenty of work still to be done in hurdling the obstacles the queer community continues to face. Most notably, trans rights have been increasingly trounced upon. Currently, to be transsexual, one must also be considered mentally ill (pathologization via Gender Disphoria and Gender Identity Disorder), exposed to discrimination and violence in everyday interactions (trans protections were removed from the proposed ENDA bill and only within the past year have trans people begun to be covered by federal hate crimes legislation), and continued misrepresentation by people from feminist, medical, psychological, and policy camps.

In addition, the HIV/AIDs epidemic continues to be a major concern amongst gay men. In 2006, Men who have sex with men (MSM) comprised almost 50% of new infections. While, this is a notable decrease from the early years of the epidemic, MSM continue to be grossly overrepresented in these numbers. In fact, since 2000, the rate of HIV infection amongst MSM has risen rather than fallen.

So basically, you shouldn’t feel apathetic, FIABGFM… winning marriage rights was a great accomplishment and certainly benefits some members of our community. But even Massachusetts is far from the egalitarian utopia that so many in the Gay mainstream seem to present it as.

( the full post)

“I do not think that [sexual] exclusions are indifferent. Some would disagree with me on this and say: 'Look, some people are just indifferent. A heterosexual can have an indifferent relationship to homosexuality. It doesn't really matter what other people do. I haven't thought about it much, it neither turns me on nor turns me off. I'm just sexually neutral in that regard.' I don't believe that. I think that crafting a sexual position, or reciting a sexual position, always involves becoming haunted by what's excluded. And the more rigid the position, the greater the ghost, and the more threatening it is in some way.”
– Judith Butler.

The above quotation from pivotal feminist philosopher, Judith Butler, suggests that identity is fundamentally relational. Thus, identity labels – heterosexual, bisexual, American, Guatemalan, White, Black, gay, upper class etc… – do not exist without their opposite – an “other” identity that supposedly represents everything that the original identity is not and defines its boundaries. To take a non-gender/sexuality example, one of the main ways that Soviet identity was constructed during the Cold War was through the “othering” of the United States, which was portrayed as a nation full of criminals, capitalist exploiters, imperialists, and as a place where the working classes generally suffered a terrible fate. This representation of the U.S. situated Soviet communist identity and established its limits, giving it ideological meaning and justifying Soviet policies towards the other “superpower”.

Does this relational constitution of identity always imply at least some level of violence? Butler seems to think that it does. Indeed, aside from taking a major swipe at libertarianism (the ideology of indifference to social problems), she claims that any rigid identity label must be “haunted” by that “other” which defines it. Thus, any attempt to strictly define oneself in such a way will involve a (potentially violent) tension with that particular identity’s opposite. In this sense, relations between straights and queers are bound to be fraught with passive-aggressive tension and distrust (at best) and dangerous hostility (at worst).

This perspective has important implications for queer or GLBTQ activism. It suggests that there is no way to completely trust “straight people,” that no matter how outwardly supportive they are of GLBTQ rights, their very self-definition will trigger a level of discomfort that will undoubtedly emerge at some point and impede the proper functioning of activism. This is particularly significant in light of the fact that college Pride groups have, in recent years, begun to include more heterosexual members – for instance, the rather large membership of my university Pride group is about 60% heterosexual. Are these “straights” not to be trusted? Should they be excluded from leadership positions? Should there be a requirement for identifying as a G, L, B, T, or Q to be on the executive board or committee of a queer political organization or Pride group? Should Pride groups be “GLBTQ-only”?

My answer to all of the above questions would be: “No.” Such an approach would assume that people are tied firmly and irrevocably to their identity labels, and that consideration, critique, reconsideration and reformulation of them are impossible. Indeed, it would – by cordoning off “straight people” from “queer people” – reify the very identity labels that queer organizations should seek to destabilize, decenter and question. A better approach would be to encourage discussion of identities and identity politics within Pride groups and to promote awareness of the mistrust and violence that rigid identity labels appear to wreak. As Robert Reid-Pharr demonstrates in his book, Black Gay Man, the holding of a particular identity does not necessarily need to be as rigid as society mandates it to be: identities do not have to be taken seriously – they can be twisted, molded and explored in a myriad of fulfilling ways. Further, by engaging with the “other,” and not isolating hir/him/her it is possible to develop freer, more congenial relationships in which the strict boundaries between hostile identity groups can be dissolved. The rigid relational aspect of identity (as suggested by Butler) does not have to be so dangerous. It is hostile and (often) violent in the dominant social context – thus, it is up to queer groups to create an alternative context in which a relaxation of identity boundaries can occur and in which we can develop conceptions of identity that take fluidity and uncertainty (and not fixity, stability and closure) as their starting point.

As far as “straight” leaders of Pride organizations go, I would not discourage them. Indeed, it is possible for someone who has been recognized as a heterosexual all his/her life, and who generally tends to have sex “heterosexually,” to become queer: by rejecting the normativity of heterosexuality, fully engaging in queer community activism and culture, and by refusing to be “indifferent” to questions of gender and sexuality. Indeed, GLBTQs are not the only ones who have a stake in the transformation of the dominant gender-sexual system. The project of its deconstruction, destruction, and reconstruction should be open to all.

***For More Information***
The opening quotation was taken from a 1993 interview with Judith Butler, published in Radical Philosophy (you can find it here). She is a must-read for Queer Theory enthusiasts. Her book, Gender Trouble, is often cited as the founding text of Queer Theory (make sure you read the Preface after you’ve given the main text a try!). Bodies That Matter and Undoing Gender are also highly recommended.

Robert Reid-Pharr is a professor of English at the City University of New York. His book, Black Gay Man, provides a stunning alternative to the way we normally conceive identity – I would particularly recommend the chapter, “Living as a Lesbian.”

( the full post)


Dear Dumbledore,

So I heard.

While I'm really happy there's a gay character in the Harry Potter books, it must have been hard to be the only one in a seven part series. No wonder you were so hidden all the time, so restrained and soft-spoken.

And I heard the truth about Grindelwald, too; I can't imagine what it must have been like to have fought the one you love, and then be subject to years of stories about the time you defeated one of the most evil tyrants in history. It's hard for people to understand things unless they're completely black and white.

But perhaps the most horrible thing of all, the part I feel the worst about for you, is that the person who knows you the most deeply, a person who you trust to represent you to the world community, your creator...OUTED YOU!

In this day and age, most of us know about the repercussions of outing someone's homosexuality to the rest of the world. And what was most interesting was that the way in which your friend, J.K. Rowling, went about doing it -- at a book reading she answered a question about your romantic history, noting nonchalantly that you were in love with a man, that you were gay, that she knew it all along, that she knew as she was helping your character grow with each page. This also means, as I'm sure you're well aware, that she planned to hide your sexuality in a way not unlike the hidden, lost-to-the-world homosexuals from some of the more repressive works of Victorian literature.

So the way this all rolled out was really interesting. A lot of people like me were upset with Rowling for not including a queer character in the series, but with this announcement it seemed like she answered our pleas. The news set in and fans everywhere were shocked; scores of people, I'm sure, flipped back through each chapter of your history, from the moments when you shared wise advice with the children of Hogwarts, to the time you brought Harry to his foster family, to the momentous time you saved Harry from Voldemort using the most astonishing magic, to flashbacks in the later books giving snapshots of your past. With but a few sentences, Rowling refashioned your entire history for the world to see. Your character was, quite honestly, hijacked.

But I guess that's how outing works, how coming out often works. You "come out" of supposed hiding, and the world sees you in a different light; sexuality is a huge part of one's identity -- whether it's discussed or not (heterosexual or homosexual), it shapes many of our thoughts and behaviors in life. The question then becomes, it seems, is whether Rowling did you real justice or not.

I would argue that Rowling is operating within the framework of the literary market, making choices about her characters that seek to "gently push" rather than "revolutionize"; she did not include gay characters in the story because, well, the sociopolitical climate in which Harry Potter most profoundly exists is one that does not welcome gay characters in children's literature -- the books wouldn't be bought. ("I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy." *) And while in many parts of our country the notion of a Victorian gay sexuality, a gayness that can only exist behind closed doors and in deep secrecy, is disappearing...children are still seen as at risk; real gay characters, real gay mentors, gay teachers, are a threat to their childhood and their growth.

And so, dear Dumbledore, I'm sorry that you had to live your life like the many gay characters we have seen from movies past, their youthful romances stifled by fear of heteronormativity, their identities quelled into a restrained silence. When you watched over the children of Hogwarts, you did it so they could grow to be themselves, free of unjust limitations and empowered by love.

But Dumbledore, for all the good you have done in your life and the happiness I am sure it brought you, I am still left with one telling image -- an image of you standing in front of the Mirror of Erised with Harry, describing the view in front of you, a view that reflects your life's deepest wishes: "I? I see myself holding a pair of thick, woolen socks. One can never have enough socks." For those in hiding, mirrors can be the most debilitating; you looked in the mirror, and you were forced to see...nothing.

( the full post)


Askfannie: UnDyked!

Dear Fannie,

I’m a lesbian in my mid-twenties. I’ve been in a relationship with my partner for two years now. We’re what you would call a stereotypical U-Haul Lesbian couple. We fell in love fast, and moved in fast. Recently, my partner has been struggling with her identity, and dropped the bomb last week. She considers herself a trans man and wants to transition to male. I’m a lesbian, and I fell in love with a woman, not a man. I love my partner, but I’m not interested in being straight!

Losing Lesbianism


So, your lesbian life-mate’s announcement of his trans-identity has rocked your relationship and your own identity. The realization that a partner is trans can greatly alter the dynamics of a relationship. Not only in between invested parties, but also how that relationship is made legible to society at large. Coming out as a lesbian, while often difficult for many people, also grants those new inductees access to a culture, community, and identity previously unavailable. An identity few are ready to give up idly. But this is one of those instances when queers can be astoundingly unqueer.

Gay people have a tendency to be infatuated with the idea that once you go gay, there ain’t no other way. We are so ready to claim sexuality as fluid to entice our hetero counterparts to the way of the fey, but the moment that we lose one of our queer sistahs (I use the word in the most gender-neutral drag queen way possible) to the straight and narrow, we’re right back to claiming a fixed queer identity. As queer people we have to acknowledge, that in the same way that it’s possible for a person to steer queer, it’s equally possible for someone to make straight. Now your situation is a little more complicated, LL because your partner’s sexual orientation isn’t changing, it’s his gender. However… in some ways, you are being asked to expand your own sexual horizons.

I understand that you may feel betrayed by your partner for not disclosing this information when you first entered into a relationship. But it’s important to remember that your partner didn’t do this maliciously to harm you in any way. In fact, this realization has very little to do with you. It certainly effects you, but your partner would have discovered that he is trans one way or the other; with or without you.

So the question boils down to love. It’s not about identities that one previously subscribed to. Do you love your partner? Is your love for you partner greater than the mean looks you may get from your lesbian friends when you bring your new husband to the Estrogen Folk Music Festival. Because if it isn’t, then you may have Uhauled too fast, even for lesbians. You mention in your question that you're "a lesbian. I fell in love with a woman, not a man." Well, this just in, LL. You did fall in love with a man, you just didn't realize it.

A side note: If you’re concerned about your sexual relationship and how that may be effected by your partner’s transition, you may want to try and branch out and experiment with strap-ons and other similar sex toys. That way your sex life can transition as your partner does. Also note that not all trans men get bottom surgery. So it all depends on what your partner feels is necessary, it’s very possible that you may end up in a “heterosexual”-double-vagina relationship.

And don’t worry, even if you and your husband are read as “straight,” a trans man partnered with his lesbian wife is still pretty queer in my book.


send your questions to

( the full post)

In honor of Halloween and Fannie's fabulousness, Below the Belt is running a contest:

Be the tenth person to submit a question to for her column, and you receive by mail:

A signed picture of Fannie Fierce herself!!!!

The winner will be announced for Fannie's Halloween post on October 31st. Send your question now!!
( the full post)


To Bed

I’m pretty sure that the inventor of the bed intended it to fit two people at all times.

I’ve thought about it: isn’t it interesting that the smallest size bed—a single—has also been dubbed a twin? After that comes a double bed, and only then is the bed called full. At their largest dimensions, beds even become gendered—a Queen, followed by a King—as if beds were meant to serve couples.

Obviously, Mr. or Ms. Bed Inventor had more than just sleep on his or her mind. I’m realizing that, when I’m in bed, whether I share it or not, I have the same thoughts too.

Last night, as I began my nightly five-hour nap (alone), I rolled onto my left side and wrapped my arms around one of my four pillows. I know: it sounds a bit crowded, but, as far as my memory can reach, I’ve slept with two or more pillows. It’s my routine; it’s comfort.

I began my multi-pillow habits when I was four: for my head, I had a pillow encased in Teddy Ruxpin covers; as an extra companion, I kept another checkered in baby blue penguins. Yes, I had stuffed animals to boot, but I opted to embrace my largest, roundest bed partner of all: pillow #2. Although the soft fur of Brownie (my favorite) had its appeal as a plaything to be tossed about, I needed something that mirrored the size of my own human form, a closer match for my growing kindergartner figure. Did I, with my childish wants, express an inherent urge to share my bed with someone more like me? Sheltered by my parents and unexposed to any idea of sensuality or sexuality, how could I have created such a craving on my own?

I couldn’t have. Until I turned 18 years old, I lived with my parents. Our established sleep norms included wearing a shirt and shorts to bed—not boxers or pajama pants as one might expect from movie depictions of sleepovers, but actual shorts with pockets and Nike or Reebok emblems embroidered on the bottom of the right leg. (It’s as if I had jogged from a workout, into my bedroom, and then hopped directly into bed—minus the perspiration.) The notion that the world clothed itself to sleep sucked all sexuality out of my childhood bedroom. If the bed wasn’t made for sleeping, it only, at most, accommodated the occasional reading or journaling session. It was no longer a crib, but it may as well have been a teenage equivalent.

It wasn’t until college that I remember shedding those ideas about bed and replacing them with a more adult skin. After growing up attired in bed, it came as a surprise that many of the guys on my first-year dormitory hall slept in their underwear. How homoerotic, I thought: straight men stripping to their skivvies and then bidding each other good night across a 12 x 14 room. Not what I expected from a single-sex residence hall at a college steeped in split-sex tradition. It seemed to me that being almost-naked, a notch below being totally-naked, was within an arm’s length of doing things naked. I wonder if there is a correlation between kids who grow up sleeping almost- or totally-naked and their sexual activity as adults.

The first time I slept with anyone (for purposes other than to share a bed) was during my sophomore year—in a tiny twin bed. After a night of partying with his friends, Ken and I made a 4:30am decision to stumble into his off-campus house. We rehydrated on his couch, made small talk on some chairs in his room, and then, after cautious move after cautious move, went for it. It was the first time either of us did anything homosexual. Furniture that seemed fit for one caved into the warmth of a heavy make-out session. That night, I completely bought into chemistry; we forewent the discomfort of his cramped space and came to understand that heat really does expand space. Twin bed or not, there was going to be room for two.

I never understood the allure of cuddling until that point. I thought that the experience would be a lie: romantic and sweet in intention, uncomfortable and intrusive in truth. Before that night, I pictured an arm pinched beneath someone’s heavy body, stuck in its place until a fortunate choice by the other’s subconscious to shift ever so slightly. I had visions of sweat smearing from arm to arm, bringing to mind overwhelming heat waves rather than the welcome embers of a tryst.

I gladly discovered that the reality of sharing a bed produced a sensation quite the opposite—that of inconceivable, thrilling independence. It’s freeing to choose to face consequences so extreme and intense. The electric spark of touch is perhaps the largest contribution to confusion in the world; once contact occurs between two hormonal humans, passages at once pleasurable and vulnerable zip wide open, leading to outcomes either amazing or regrettable. I learned that there’s something about skin resting against skin that sends charges into the body, to the nook where I would imagine my soul to live. Who would’ve thought that the simple act of taking up space with another person, physically filling voids in an attempt to metaphorically fill voids, would result in that? In its irrationality, I found the unexpected combustion of relief and excitement.

It began to make sense to me why I had been hugging pillows all my life. I needed a substitute for that adult skin, even as a kid. Perhaps, then, adult skin is a misnomer; perhaps human is more like it. I’ve begun getting used to my new skin by experience: shedding my shirt and shorts for boxers or less, adapting to all types of sleeping spaces—twin-size, foldable mattresses to fully-outfitted luxury king-size beds—not all of them my own.

And yet, some things have not changed. Despite my willingness to assimilate into the world of the sexualized bed, I hang onto certain innocent habits of old: cuddling with pillow #2—and now, in my mid-twenties, rendezvousing with pillows #3 and #4… because, of course, I’m a little bigger than I was when I was four, and the void in my bed is getting larger by the day. I have a double to fill and only a single me to do the job.

( the full post)

Prince Gomolvilas joins us from QueerSighted:

The gay community is outraged that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 43, a bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry in California. Indeed, small protests in opposition to Schwarzenegger's decision were held in different parts of the state earlier this week--including in my own home, where I subjected myself to nude self-flagellation like that albino monk in The Da Vinci Code movie.

But after noticing how some conservatives and the religious right are covering the story, I think we would be remiss if we didn't recognize and applaud the legislative strides that were made last week in California. Progress is sometimes best measured by how upset the opposition is. And it's about time I put my whips away and my robe back on.

While CitzenLink (an offshoot of the ultra-right Focus on Family organization), for example, notes on its website that Schwarzenegger's veto is "a victory for traditional marriage," the group denounces the governor for passing "several bills detrimental to California families."

Mona Passignano, a spokesperson for Focus on the Family Action (another branch of Focus on Family), said that those other bills "will likely have a devastating impact on churches and Christian families in the state for years to come." This sentiment is echoed on similarly themed websites on the Internet.

The governor actually signed seven LGBT-friendly bills into law last week, after they were all passed by the Legislature:

SB 777, the Student Civil Rights Act, is one of three youth bills that the governor signed. This legislation calls on public school administrators and teachers to fully understand their responsibilities in protecting students from harassment and bullying.

AB 394, the Safe Place to Learn Act, provides guidance to school districts on how to properly enforce existing safety standards in regard to harassment and discrimination.

AB 14, the Civil Rights Act of 2007, bans discrimination in government services based on sexual orientation and gender identity. According to Equality California, "Combined with three other nondiscrimination bills that were signed into law during the past four years, the Civil Rights Act of 2007 gives Californians the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation."

AB 102, the Name Equality Act, allows California's domestic partners to choose a common family name when they register their partnership.

SB 105, the Joint Income Tax Filing Implementation Bill, streamlines the process for domestic partners filing their 2007 state income tax returns.

SB 559, the Fair and Equal Taxation for Surviving Partners Act, according to Equality California, "reverses discriminatory tax increases for domestic partners whose partner died before a 2006 law went into effect protecting them against unfair property reassessments."

Additionally, a call to Governor Schwarzenegger's office yesterday confirmed that he did sign SB 518, the Juveniles: Youth Bill of Rights Act--legislation that aims to protect LGBT youth in juvenile justice facilities. (Early reports, including the one by Equality California, were published before the governor had taken action on that particular bill.)

Not convinced of the impact that the signed bills will have on society? Just witness the horror--the horror!--of the right.

Aside from Focus on Family and its affiliates, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) has its panties in a bunch. The group claims that SB 777 "could radically favor homosexuality in schools" and will require "all California public schools to positively portray homosexuality to children as young as kindergarten."

The site says that Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, has speculated on what could happen because of this bill. "Textbooks could be forbidden from portraying marriage as only between a man and a woman; textbooks could be required to present homosexual historical figures; and sex-specific Homecoming King and Queen contests could be forced to change," the CNA warns. "The legislation might even mandate unisex restrooms."

WorldNetDaily quotes Thomasson as saying, "This means children as young as five years old will be mentally molested in school classrooms."

"Now that SB777 is law," says Meredith Turney, legislative liaison for Capitol Resource Institute, "schools will in fact become indoctrination centers for sexual experimentation." expresses concern as well. "California Governor Schwarzenegger Veto of Gay 'Marriage' Made Meaningless by Other Bills," screams a headline. The site claims that AB 14 "requires more California businesses, as well as some churches and nonprofit organizations, to support and promote transsexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality. AB 14 prohibits state funding for any program that does not support transsexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality. This means state-funded social services operated by churches and other houses of faith, which provide essential services to children and adults, could dry up."

And in an ironic statement to end all ironic statements, Thomasson declares, "It's the height of intolerance to punish individuals, organizations, businesses, and churches that have moral standards on sexual conduct and sexual lifestyles. This is another insensitive law that violates people's moral boundaries."

That statement requires no snarky commentary from me. And despite the governor's gay-marriage veto, I kind of feel like he deserves a cigar anyway. And after all this self-flagellation, I kind of need one too.

( the full post)

I went to get my quarterly STD exam the other day, and the nurse who was giving me the questionnaire asked me whether I was a top or a bottom. Even though I knew the question was coming, it annoyed me. Somehow it hadn’t bothered me when they asked how many sex partners I’d had in the last 6 months, or whether I’d ever had an STD before, or whether I used condoms or not. But I stalled when they asked whether I was a fucker or a fuckee, a pitcher or a catcher, Batman or Robin. I’m not uncomfortable talking about my sexual activities with health professionals; it was that they used the word or.

I understand that from a medical perspective, they needed to know whether a urethral or a rectal gonorrhea culture was appropriate. I understand that there are differences in risk factors for one behavior over the other. I understand that there are people who only engage in or prefer one activity or the other. There’s really nothing wrong with the nurse asking if I do top or bottom (as a verb); my distaste was with the fact that she asked if I was a top or bottom. As if that was the defining characteristic of my sexuality! I have nothing against “tops” or “bottoms” insofar as that preference is purely based on sexual desire, and doesn’t become a constrictive sexual identity.

The top/bottom dichotomy has always been one of my pet peeves: it is, at its core, an espousal of the very gender dichotomy that this blog tries to deconstruct. The notion that there is always one dominant (top) and one submissive (bottom) partner in a gay male pair is just a modulation of the masculine/feminine or male/female dyad that has been the root of the mistreatment of women for millennia. Not only is the notion false (yay for versatility!), it’s detrimental to the queer identity and community.

Even if we acknowledge – as we must – that there is no strict correlation between being a bottom and being “femme” (because I know plenty of burly butch bottoms!), there is a stigma associated with being a bottom, even in the gay community. There is a social hierarchy within the gay male world, and bottoms are quite literally at the bottom. The association between femininity and bottoming has served to marginalize a group of people (specifically, guys who take it up the butt) that aren’t even women. Cultural misogyny truly is pervasive; it has spread even to a realm that is almost as womanless as the Freemasons or the Orthodox rabbinate: gay men’s bedrooms.

Not only does the top/bottom dichotomy cause the marginalization of men who like to get fucked, it reinforces the notion of gender inequality in the gay community: wherever the “feminine” is disrespected or devalued, the idea that “women – and anything like them – are inferior” is reinforced. Among a group of people who are by their very nature pushing the traditional boundaries of gender, who are so frequently associated with feminism and women’s rights, and who are the victims of discrimination, it appalls me that such a blatant espousal of misogyny is so commonplace.

I’m not advocating a change in anybody’s sexual behavior; we should all be free to do whatever we want in the bedroom, whether that’s bottoming, topping, or anything else. I AM advocating, though, a disavowal of the identity labels “top” and “bottom” – they’re artifacts of an unequal binary gender system, and their adoption only serves to reinforce that unhealthy cultural construct.

( the full post)

Dear Fannie,

I’m a 23 year old heterosexual man, I have a lot of gay friends and I’m not bothered by it at all. I’m open minded and all, but a lot of my gay friends hit on me. Now I’m not homophobic or anything, but they know I’m straight. So why do they keep pushing the envelope?

Straight but not Narrow

Good for you, SBNN for having gay friends. I’m glad that your gay friends’ collective faggotry doesn’t “bother” you, and you are able to maintain close-but-not-too-close friendships with those of the queer clan. I don’t mean to pick on you, SBNN, I’m sure you are sincere in liking your gay friends as friends, and your feelings of discomfort in constantly being made an object of desire or focus of scopophilic gaze are indeed significant. But the number of times that you qualify yourself as straight leads me to believe there is still a bit of residual homophobia somewhere in that psyche. Judging by the fact that you read my column suggests that you at least are comfortable enough with issues of queerness that you aren’t actively repulsed by queerness. Obviously, it’s not a malicious kind of homophobia that leads people to act violently, but I’m willing to bet that while you may enjoy the company of fabulous men, you’re a little afraid of being fabulous yourself.

To answer your question on why your friends continue to hit on you, despite the fact that they know you’re straight: there are a few assumptions that we have to re-examine. They may not know you’re straight. Yes, you may have a girlfriend, or female dating/sex partners. Yes, you may do “straight” butch things. You may have mentioned previous heterosexual relationships to secure your identity and readability as a heterosexual man. However, gay men have a terrible tendency to believe that everyone is a little bit queer. Also, the same way in which straight guys will push their buddies’ buttons by calling them by a deprecating nickname or likening them to female genitalia; your gay friends may hit on you just to watch you squirm. I don’t know your friends, but it’s entirely possible that it’s all in good fun. It may be a good idea to notice how your gay friends interact with each other. Often times, affected sexual interest and hyperbolic come-ons are normal interaction between groups of friends.

Even if your friends are sincerely interested in bedding you, and make that fact painfully evident to you by giving you the eye or slipping in a sexual pun, here and there, maybe you shouldn’t feel all uncomfortable that your masculinity is being challenged. Be glad that you have warranted attention from the most discerning and critical judges of male beauty: gay men. Straight guys need to learn that getting cat calls from a queen isn’t a threat, it’s a compliment. You know you’re hot, when the gaggle of gays thinks you’re hot.

I’d also like to mention that those feelings of discomfort by being made a sexual object, is what women have to go through on a daily level. Women are made to be subjected to the scopophilic gaze of men (both gay and straight). Getting a piece of your own medicine can prove to be a liberating and educational experience, and I encourage you to learn from it!


send your questions to

( the full post)

Vanessa Edwards Foster joins us from Trans Political:

“Don’t you know you’re talking about a revolution, sounds like a whisper” — “Talkin’ ‘Bout A Revolution,” Tracy Chapman

Well, finally woke up from a nap after a tough weekend protesting the Human Rights Campaign National Banquet in Washington DC. On one hand, I hate these last-minute actions where you have to travel halfway across the country.

+ They’re obviously quite expensive (not to mention no planning or chance for budgeting).

+ They’re physically taxing as sleep is minimal (you sleep on the road wherever you may find place (again, not easy at the last minute), and the events themselves can be draining if not injurious (not at this one, but at one in New York).

+ They’re stressful trying to get everything coordinated and plotted out while (in my case) getting out press, dealing with press calls and individuals’ calls wanting information.

+ They’re also a bit of a concern: you wonder how turnout will be, whether it will be effective, and even concerns over your personal safety or arrests.

* The last item above I had some concerns about as I was singled out by two of DC’s finest and also a couple of the Convention Center security for some uneven treatment. (Note to self: leave the red beret at home next time.)

On the other hand, there’s nothing like being completely incensed and having such a task ahead of you with all odds working against you. It compels the fight in you. It also certainly lets you know you’re alive.

The HRC protest was a rousing success – and the first of an ongoing campaign that will not relent, so a wrap-up is in order. We had folks from Atlanta, Raleigh, the SF Bay Area, Boston, Louisville, Knoxville and myself from Houston. The effort, coordinated by the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC), drew approximately 100 protesters out to line the front entrance, replete with signs and UnEqual stickers (the newest trend: speaking truth to power) from all of the unequally disparate portions of this GLBT alphabet soup.

My personal disappointment was the lack of music (I need to fix this for next time) for setting the mood. This required the yelling and cheers through duration, which went well. The only problem is sometimes these can get out of hand, but blessedly there were no serious breaches.

“While they’re standing in the welfare lines,Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation,Wasting time in unemployment lines.” — “Talkin’ ‘Bout A Revolution,” Tracy Chapman

While I’ve not always agreed with my NTAC-alum Angela Brightfeather Sheedy who came up from NC, I gotta give her some serious high-fives. In protests, Angela is fully in her element! Singularly, Angela was an MVP here. She was mobile, was persistent, and had her message down pat (focusing on the stats of unemployed and underemployed T folk). Way to kick butt Ange!

We didn’t get Jamison Green, but we did have fellow Texan, now bi-coastal DC-Californian, Shannon Minter of National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)! I’ve watched him grow up from 1996, and I gotta say I’m proud! Yeehaw, Bubba … thanks for showing, and for wearing the unequal and being a very vocal part of this!

Donna Cartwright came out, representing both Pride At Work and NCTE, and was another star – especially with getting the crowd energized and generating the cheers for the phalanx at the steps to the entrance.

Monica Roberts (formerly of Houston) and Anne Casebeer made the drive from Louisville and were more than willing to vent the stored-up frustration, though both were on best behavior during the protest vocals. Props for keeping the eyes on the prize!

Even the Co-Chair of NCTE, Meredith Bacon, with UnEqual sign prominently displayed, was there for what may have been her first trans protest! Meredith was an active part of the gauntlet of protest cheering crew at the front steps, along with NTAC’s Chair, Ethan St. Pierre, and Transgender American Veterans Assn.’s Exec. Dir, Monica Helms.

Danielle Clarke traveled in for the effort as well. She’s been hampered by a bad rep based on past experiences, but I will say that she was much more focused and lucid for this effort. For a brief few seconds I listened in on her response to the local Fox News channel, and she did (for a layperson) a decent job. There was nothing to add to it.

Mara Keisling, Exec. Dir. of NCTE showed up to visually support the protest. Not part of the chants, or those with posters or UnEqual stickers, she was there to speak with press. From what this writer observed, she appears to be keeping her powder dry in hopes of an HRC change-of-heart.

One thing that did stick out: we had a number of signers and verbal supporters throughout this week, but only had NTAC, IFGE, NTCE, Pride At Work, NCLR and the Equality Federation folks (passing out EQUALI_Y stickers) at the protest. We also had folks joining us from the Green Fest attendees, the radical and activist segments of the unaffiliated GL community, as well as the IndyMedia activists. Conspicuously absent (from those I observed) were NGLTF, PFLAG, GenderPAC and other signers onto the newly formed United ENDA group. One wonders if they’re similarly keeping their powder dry, looking to get back in HRC’s good graces.

Another conspicuous absence was Donna Rose, though hers was in solidarity with the trans community. Principle is a precious asset, and Donna is keenly aware of that.

Message to Mara, any of the fence-sitting GL organizations, or any other hold-outs for an HRC “come-to-Jesus” moment: this game is already over. We went through this in 2000, 2002 and 2004, there is no hope here, and the trans community – certainly those of us not of the privileged few looking for personal opportunity – is moving on. Stick a fork in it.

Random observations:

There were two other events going on at the convention center simultaneously. The Green Fest had one of the events, and also ended up joining in solidarity. Once they got windfall of what happened on the ENDA bill. These young adults (anathema to the Bush/Reagan conservative paradigm) believe in egalitarian ideals. There’s no judgmental predisposition to transgenders– they’re just openly curious.

That we enjoy eager support from them shouldn’t come as a surprise. One thing I’ve noted over the years is that we have much more baggage and work to do within GLBT, but there’s a refreshing lack of that with progressive straight America! If we take the time to explain it to them, they get it! And it’s plainly obvious who’s on the inside and who’s left outside! This is one of the ready benefits of the protests: opportunity to reach out to the curious potential allies in the straight community.
The AUSA convention was also going on, and we got a couple of the military folks walking through asking questions as well. In fact, one retired gentleman walking with cane asked about the protest and was legitimately curious about why we were doing this. I gave him a brief overview and steered him towards TAVA’s Monica Helms.

We also had plenty of press coverage. Metro Weekly and the Advocate were both there covering for the GLBT community. Better yet, we had straight press coverage (finally). Both CNN (yes, Cable News Network) and the local Fox channel in DC had TV crews out to film and interview. As event coordinator, NTAC Chair, Ethan St. Pierre had his hands full with press to get our message out (save for the one I worked with CNN at the end of the evening.)

We even got major dispersal in the Indymedia press (and a big thanks to Isis for the assist!)

Having Ethan and Mara working press most of the protest allowed me and others such as Angela, Danielle and Andrea B. to be a bit more mobile, catching protesters away from the protest cheers to get a message out.

We did see two transgenders attending the event: Dana Beyer of suburban MD, and Amanda Simpson of Tucson. While most of the trans committee members, board of governors and directors have resigned, Beyer is still holding on with HRC. Both of the two recently ran for political office and enlisted help from the Victory Fund, which could explain the calculus behind their attending. At this writing, it’s unknown if there was any type of visual or verbal protest on the inside of the banquet from either of the two.

Of the GL attendees, we did have a few supporters who signaled to us while braving the picket lines, and almost the same number who were saying the words but weren’t giving a very convincing case. Even the latter, though, were better than the rest.

There were some who did the trendy keep-a-cell-phone-to-the-ear busy thing to shut out the protests. One even walked by me, intently focused on his blackberry, and after passing me I noted he had a video game of some type on! That was probably the evening’s most clever method of avoiding “having to look at the protesting trannies.”
Most however didn’t use the props to avoid confrontation. Most were either eye-rollers or the avoid-eye-contact types. A number of them engaged in more overt response. One attendee who walked up near the edge of the building saw me and decided to give a hearty thumbs down to me, then Angela and then the entire crowd assembled near the entrance. His elitist childishness was very caricatural.

One lesbian walking up the steps responded to me “you don’t understand. We’ve been at this for many years. You haven’t.” I guess she’s never heard of Sylvia Rivera or Marsha P. Johnson – either that or believes they’re confused gay men!

Yet another couple walked up, and in tones dripping icy cold, chastised me that we “don’t’ even know what they (HRC) are doing for [us]. Being that there’s few if any trans people ever in groups like HRC, it kinda stands to reason that we wouldn’t know what they’re doing that isn’t publicized. We do know what they’re doing to us, and how much they’re keen on fundraising and even using trans examples of discrimination or hate crimes for their own legislation which many times has not included the very community they cull money or anecdotal support from. How often do you see trans people raising serious money at the largest GL events, or using examples of sexual orientation discrimination to help pass a gender identity only bill?

While we’ve got some support on the inside, we’ve got about twice to three times as many of these attendees that either have no problem leaving us out, if not emotionally opposing inclusion of gender identity if it hurts their chances.

I guess none of them had thought about what the past few years worth of G&L marriage push has done to the trans community’s marriages, even in states that previously allowed post-operative transsexuals to marry – though that’s a subject for another time.

The only other observation of any note was a few of the cops who peeled off and followed me to the far end of the convention center building. At the time, I thought Officer McClain instructed them to follow me to monitor and (when they desired) limit my protests. According to Angela Brightfeather Sheedy, that wasn’t it at all.

It turns out they were (not so subtly) wondering aloud about me. “Is that one of them [trans]? Is that still a man? Or is that really a woman?”

At one point Angela added her take on their questions: “If you can’t tell and have to ask, does it really matter?” Perhaps these next few years’ of protests are going to be kinda fun after all!

“Poor people are gonna rise up and get their share
Poor people are gonna rise up and take what’s theirs” — “Talkin’ ‘Bout A Revolution,” Tracy Chapman

( the full post)

This is my obligatory Halloween article. I'm writing it a bit early because, to be honest, I want to remind people to start getting ready. Halloween is the best night of the year and half arsed costumes make me want to immolate people.

There's probably a few people out there wondering how I'm intending to link Halloween to Religion. There's more than likely a lot of you wondering what this has got to do with Queer. Well, to start off I'm going to talk a bit about what Halloween actually is. Do not worry, the ever elusive point will eventually turn up.

Halloween is a, nominally, Christian festival that marks the evening before "All Hallows Day". All Hallows Day is a Catholic celebration of all the saints, known or unknown, who've achieved union with God in heaven. The day afterwards, All Souls Day, is for those dead people who are in purgatory and still working their way up to Sainthood. These three dates mark the beginning of November, a month that is dedicated to those Catholics who have left the body on a permanent basis.

However, this is almost certainly not what the majority of celebrants are thinking of. Halloween for the majority is about dressing up, telling ghost stories and waging anonymous war on those old people who don't distribute candy. "Mischief" is enacted and we all dress like monsters, saints or celebrities. It's a time where people can be safely perverse, on the condition that they put that perverseness away at the end of the night. It's a similar type of thing to the Medieval Feast of Fools, Ancient Roman Saturnalia and Ancient Greek Dionysia. All of these festivals involved the poor mocking the rich, women mocking men and individual bucking at state. But, unlike these other festivals, Halloween isn't just an outlet for the oppressed. It's also an outlet for fear and the fear inducing.

I'm sure you can all see the link I'm trying to make here. Halloween is about the oppressed and the feared and queer people are sort of oppressed and feared. Big whoop. I'm sure neither of these things are particularly revelatory. But, I want to explore a bit further the way that queer action can be seen as monstrous and, god help you all, then go on to suggest what I think we should do with that knowledge.

If we want to talk about fear, a good place to start it Freud's concept of "the uncanny". Uncanniness is a quality belonging to an item that it both familiar and unfamiliar. Dolls, those staples of childhood horror stories and adult phobia, are uncanny because they seem both human and inhuman at the same time. Masks, a personal fear of my daddy, are uncanny for the same reason. They are not alive, but they can seems alive. And, for a lot of straight people, queer living is frightening for the same reason. We are males who are not men, women who are not wives. We wear the faces of human beings, but behind them we keep alien thoughts. To prove my point I want to show a brief selection of quotes that link gender deviance to the occult, death and *thunder rolls* the dark.

"Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

-Pat Robertson, vocal right wing "Christian".

"Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of
marriage... It will destroy the Earth."

-James Dobson,

"You ask anybody that's investigated homosexual murders and without
question they are the most violent...even the sex act itself is violent
in homosexuals."
-Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council

"The perversion that follows homosexuality is bestiality and then human
sacrifice and cannibalism."
-Barbara Blewster, a member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints and the Arizona State Legislature

"I have learned that the radical, perverted homosexuals and lesbians are
already promoting their '2000 Disney Gay Day'...they are timing it to occur in June -- right when children out of school will be flocking to Disney-owned parks! This proves the true intent of these homosexuals: they are after our children!!"
-Bonnie Mawyer, wife of Christian Action Network founder

"Homosexuality is Satan's diabolical attack upon the family that will.
not only have a corrupting influence upon our next generation, but it will also bring down the wrath of God upon America."
-Jerry Falwell

Well, I'm approaching the end of the article and I haven't actually got to my point yet. I'll continue my train of thought later in the month. For now, all I've really proved is that gay people are a bit like monsters, sortof. Next time I'll be discussing how to use that knowledge to undermine western thought, disrupt the family and spread HIV.

Or, if they want monsters, we can give them monsters.
( the full post)



Sometimes I wonder if more of the Latin culture has rubbed off on me than I'm even aware of. I recently had a conversation with a Canadian friend with whom I spent time with here in Mexico and she was telling me about an issue that she was addressing with her Canadian boyfriend back home (she's doing research in Panama). She said she was just "so upset" and "so angry" and didn't know what to do. Turns out a couple nights before her boyfriend had become very jealous and had just flipped out. She didn't go into details about his jealous, long-distance "outburst", but explained that he had already sent many emails, text messages, and phone messages expressing that he was sorry and felt like an idiot. She continued to go on about how ridiculous it was and how dare he react like that and that now she wasn’t even excited to be going home in a few days to see him and he had just ruined everything. My reaction? "So what?"

I didn't actually say this to her but my reaction got me thinking: Why was she so dramatically affected by this event when I viewed it as something of a complete overreaction? I went on to explain my opinion to her: jealousy is a completely natural and unavoidable part of ANY relationship. Sure, plenty of people deny it and like to say that they never feel jealous because his/her relationship is completely based on trust. What I always want to respond is that no one is questioning the level of trust in your relationship but in fact all I am saying is that it's 100% natural and ok to feel a little jealousy here and there. The problem is when you can't recognize that jealousy. When you don't notice or even worse, when you don't care; that's when jealousy becomes a problem. Her partner had actually recognized, acknowledged, and made her aware of the fact that he 100% understood that he had made a mistake- something not all people are willing to do. Feeling a desire to keep something that you like so much to yourself alone is completely understandable, hence why you like it so much and want to spend time with your partner. If you have your absolute favorite, delectable candy in front of you you're not going to turn to the guy next to you and be like, "Here ya go, friend!" Now the difference, my intelligent colleagues, that we are well aware of…is that we should not be treating a person like a dessert.

Now again- why do I feel this way? Is it how I have always felt? Is it based on the relationship (however limited they may be) experiences I've had? Then I began to wonder/worry- is it because I've spent so much time in a Latin country surrounded by Latin relationships? Was it because I am in a relationship with a Latin man?

Living here has given me a new perspective on countless things- music taste, social class, political corruption, placing value on the important things- and the list goes on and on and on. One of the things I would include on that list would be the way a relationship works and what is healthy and what is unhealthy. Granted, these are very personal things and are can be approached in a million different ways but for me, I sometimes find relationships in the United States specifically to be very dry, closed, and unappealing. On the other hand, I find them to generally be more balanced than those I have seen in Mexico. I have seen some craaaazy things done solely because of a jealous rage. I think people tend to relate jealousy to the male counterpart in a relationship but kids, these Mexican mamas KNOW how to express themselves. Now of course I am speaking in general here and know all relationships in Latin American countries are not based purely on feelings and desires but I feel comfortable saying that jealousy is approached with a much lighter perspective here. The problem is obviously when that jealousy so rapidly and so easily converts itself into the need for control.

I think with all the attention I receive as a foreigner in such a small city impacts the way my partner reacts to certain situations. I think there are a lot of people in life that might be surprised by some of the dynamics of my romantic relationship – on one hand he has become very understanding and really couldn't care less and at the same time I think there are moments when he's just like, guy, back off or you'll regret it. It's the instinct, the emotion, the want. It's what you feel, not what you think. So if we're doing so much thinking and so little feeling, what's left? Just a whole lotta "Ok, so tell me how you feel about that" instead of just letting the person show you.

I am in now way supporting jealousy-inspired outbursts or idiocies but all I'm saying is maybe we should be a little more understanding of our hearts and a little less conscious of our brains. That we can use situations like the one my friend went through as learning experiences that we don't want repeated instead of deal-breakers. I feel that we are all capable of understanding and controlling our emotions if we do it consciously.

( the full post)

Dear Fannie

I'm a 20 year old hetero-flexible female. I've been in a relationship with my 22 year old bi boyfriend for two months now. Our sex life is great and I feel really good about our relationship. I was wondering, how do you know when it's okay to stop using condoms? We have a semi-open relationship agreement in that he can hook up with guys and I can hook up with girls, but we need to clear it with each other before anything goes down, and we always have to be safe when hooking up with outside people.

Concerning Condoms in Chicago

Dear CC,

So you and your kind-of-non-monogamous-bi-boyfriend want to start rubbing your nethers together without worrying about rubbers, ribbed or otherwise. This is a question all couples have to deal with, and it comes down to trust. Do you trust your boyfriend with your health, your future? Those are big questions for a 20 year old in a two-month old relationship, but they are relevant ones when you consider having unprotected sex. I assume that when you suggest not using condoms, you are or at least intend to be on the pill. I don't care how much you love someone; you should be dating them for much more than two months before getting preggers. As funny as Knocked Up was, it rarely turns out as rosy.

Not to disrespect your blossoming romance, but if you and your boyfriend are having sex with people outside your boyfriend, you should be using condoms/dental dams etc. Even though it's admirable y'all have these procedures for extra-relationship hooking up, sex-outside-relationships don't usually fall into place so neatly. Given the fact that you both are relatively young, I think its fair to say that its more likely for your boyfriend to bang a boy in an environment that isn't exactly conducive to calling his girlfriend and clearing it. This is compounded by any presence of alcohol/pot etc. that can hamper judgment. If you or your boyfriend are going to be hooking up with people, one-night-stand style, there is a very real possibility that the sexual encounter won't be as under control and in the parameters, as you may like.

While I think its admirable that you want to trust your boyfriend enough to know that he (and you) will use protection when having sex with other guys (and girls), it may not be entirely realistic. Assuming that you and your boyfriend will be together for an extended period of time, I would first wait through 2 months of monogamous sex before getting tested for various STIs, including HIV(this doesn’t include things like… making out, dry humping, mutual autoerotic masturbation) . According to the National HIV Testing Resources website, HIV tests can usually be administered 2-8 weeks after potential exposure, so if you can stomach it, have sex only with each other for those 8 weeks. If you both show up negative for HIV and the host of other STIs out there, then sure… go ahead and fuck freely (please, for the love of God, be on the pill).

If you are going to make this agreement work, both you and your boyfriend must be completely honest with each other about sex outside the relationship. I think it would be a good policy to go back to that waiting period of 2 months of monogamous protected sex, after either has sex with a third (or fourth) party, in order to be able ensure that both of you are clean. It’s also important to remember that women are far more vulnerable at contracting HIV in vaginal heterosexual sex than men, simply due to the anatomical nature of the vagina. It’s also much easier for a man to contract HIV while being penetrated, rather than doing the penetrating. So if your boyfriend like to bottom with guys, and he likes to have vaginal sex with you, I would be extra cautious. CC, I hope that helps you in your decision making. Happy fucking!


Send your questions to

( the full post)

Ava is 23 years old. She’s a busy girl: just sixteen months out of college, she is the head of a middle school science department and one of two science teachers serving all three grade levels on her campus. Although her work as an educator consumes much of her life, she also plays soccer for an all-city women’s league, runs regularly, raises a dog, holds Saturday morning science tutorials, and participates in a book club.

Somewhere in between, she wants to conceive her first child by the time she’s 27.

That means that if she wants at least one and a half years of marriage prior to a pregnancy, she’ll need to walk down the aisle at 25. Which means that, if she wants to date the man of her dreams for at least a year or two before the big hitch, then she needs to meet him—oh, well… right about NOW.

My friends and I are aging quickly, and we’ve only begun to realize the urgency of our dating situations. Oddly enough, the physical dating aspect of dating isn’t quite as pressing as its eventual extension: the children we want.

Four days ago, I walked out of a boba tea café after a few hours of post-work-hours work. I saw a young couple sitting on the rear edge of an open-bed pick-up truck, and, unlike the Power Points and planning that had taken hold of my evening, relaxation and calm had permeated theirs. These sensations were palatable to me, a distant observer, despite (or perhaps because of) where their attention was turned: their child. Indeed, the tumult and unpredictability of child-rearing was nowhere to be found, as an aura of comfort and awe embraced the trio. As the child—no more than two years old—played atop the truck’s empty bed, the couple looked at each other for a moment, silently, as if to say with just their eyes: Look—we created this together. This is the wonder of life.

It was then that I cemented the gravity of the matter, of dating, relationships, and love. While not everyone makes it a life-long goal to start a family (biologically or otherwise), many people do. The choices we make as to who, what, where, when, why, and how we flirt with others begin a domino effect that could—inevitably—lead to the creation of a family. As fun, light, and innocent as eye contact in a dimly-lit room may seem, it may be that same look that changes a lifetime, not just for two people, but also for—as serious and dire as it may be to name them—the unborn.

This introduces a young adult dilemma, fodder, if you will, for a quarter-life crisis: If we know that our actions as daters have an eventual end-product attached, then should we focus on career aspirations, thereby creating solid foundations to support ourselves and a future relationship or family? Or should we sacrifice part of that desire for stability in order to search for and secure the partner with whom we can root the life of primogeniture and (perhaps) a few siblings? A more complex question: How can we successfully juggle the two competing interests with limited amounts of energy and time?

Two co-workers of mine, Emma and A.C., also 23 years old, may have found an answer to the third question. The two of them have been dating for almost a year now. Their love blossomed after Emma had a bad day, and A.C., simply a friend at the time, came over to make sure she was doing okay. The tears led to hugs, and the hugs led to history. Since then, they’ve met each other’s families, attended the weddings of relatives, and practically live together. Two weeks ago, A.C.’s car died for the umpteenth time, and instead of investing in a mechanic’s temporary fixes, he decided that it was time to get a new car. While purchasing a new vehicle is, in itself, an enormous move, he pushed its intensity up a notch: they discussed A.C.’s new car as their new car. At the age of 23, they wondered: what will be best for us? What will we need when we have cats and kids? Furthermore, Emma’s parents decided to help finance A.C.’s new car with a contracted loan. Although their one year anniversary isn’t for another four weeks, Emma and A.C., still in the shadow of their twenty-first birthdays, are thinking about and working towards the future—their future. As rushed as that may seem for a young, intelligent, and urban couple, they’ve chosen to create stability in light of their relationship instead of having stability be separate from them and work for someone; for Emma and A.C., a solid foundation for the future is created together.

What makes it easier for them to come to that conclusion, though, is that they’ve already found each other. They can think about a child and cats and cars because they don’t have to think about finding an other. Ava can’t think of those ends without the means to that end.

I am in the same boat. I’m a twenty-something salaried professional. Single. Hard-working. Seeking to re-enter school for a Master’s and PhD within the next two years, for a doctorate degree by the time I hit 30. Although I have the rest of my life in front of me, I, too, have a deadline I want to meet: at 30, I want to adopt a child because I don’t want to be an old-fogey father.

Fortunately, maybe my homosexuality provides a loophole to having to deal with a dilemma like Ava’s. I can picture myself, at the time of adoption, still single. Between research, teaching, work, and somehow finding time to breathe, I don’t know if my energy and time will be best put into dating during those five years. Moreover, I don’t know if the year or so after I finish defending my dissertation will possess enough fated magic to help me find the perfect parent for the child I know I want. I foresee, then, putting dating on the backburner. I can do that. I don’t have to create a child with another—I just have to raise one.

My priority, then: getting me off the ground so that I can be the best parent I can be when I get there. My partner will just have to follow. Who would’ve thought that, with all the complications and urges surrounding dating, he’d be the least urgent thing?

( the full post)

+ news +

Larry, Larry, Larry!,
a resignation,
and protest for the week.

And also very important in the news: aqueertheory and missionaryposition have now joined Below the Belt as full-time regulars! This means that they will be contributing twice a month on regular posting days like the other front page contributors. So now you can't escape them. Hooray!

( the full post)

Dr. Jillian Todd Weiss joins us from Transgender Workplace Diversity:

According to the Washington Blade, House Democratic leaders are strongly considering omitting anti-discrimination protections for transgender persons from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The paper said this occurred after an internal Democratic head count last Wednesday indicated that, if the bill continued to include “gender identity,” it would not receive the votes necessary for passage. The Blade implied that a “sexual orientation” standalone bill would receive the necessary votes for passage.

The idea of deleting gender identity from ENDA, and creating a stand-alone gender identity bill, is an idea that completely undermines the fairness message of ENDA. There is a wonderful post by Nadine Smith at Bilerico on this issue. She gives historical examples of legislators that sought to exclude a controversial minority at the last moment, and how those bills went on to victory without exclusion. This is very instructive about the nature and function of remedial civil rights legislation, like ENDA.

A classic debate among legal scholars is the question of when law in a democracy should follow public sentiment, and when it should lead. In most cases, legislators enact laws because, using their political instincts, they believe the majority of their constituency wants it. If the majority don’t want it, they don’t vote for the law. It’s a simple calculus, and it’s the backbone of democracy. The most good for the most people. There are times, however, when this utilitarian creed serves a society poorly. Sometimes the majority is ignorant about a subject, and in need of an education. Sometimes a society is prejudiced, and needs to know it. Sometimes there is a small group of people who are suffering quietly, stifiling under the arrogant judgment of an intolerant majority, and in need of a higher authority to set it right. There are times when legislators must support a proposed law because it is the right thing to do, even though the majority is against it because of prejudice or ignorance or intolerance. The very act of taking this courageous stand propels the issue into national debate, and the legislation becomes the very instrument of the education needed to enact it.

The Employment Discrimination Act is such a bill. It seeks to give a remedy to people who cannot keep their jobs because of the prejudices of their employers against their sexual orientation or gender identity. This injustice is keenly felt by all those in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, but it is especially hard-hitting in the transgender community. The transgender unemployment statistics are much higher that the statistics in the general US population. The unemployment rate is about 8 times higher and the poverty rate is about 5 times higher. It should be no surprise that, of all the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, the problem of employment discrimination is especially hard-hitting in the transgender community, because transgender identity is the least understood identity of the GLBT spectrum, and the most subject to prejudice. And for precisely this reason, gender identity is the category that most needs the protection of ENDA. So transgender people are both the most in need of protection and the most likely to be voted off the island. Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of prejudice against transgender people within the gay and lesbian community itself, as I have detailed in my article in the Journal of Bisexuality, entitled "GL vs. BT: The Archaeology of Biphobia and Transphobia Within the U.S. Gay and Lesbian Community."

“But isn’t it better,” the utilitarians ask, “to propose a law for some of the GLBT community that is assured of winning, rather than a law for all that is uncertain of passage? Why sacrifice the many for the few?” They suggest that we create an ENDA without gender identity, which, they say, will ensure its becoming the law of the land, and may create a climate favorable for the later passage of a separate bill to protect gender identity. But this suggestion has a gaping hole in its logic. President Bush is going to veto ENDA with or without gender identity. There is not going to be any ENDA this year or any year until President Bush no longer sits in the White House, as there are not enough votes to override a veto.

This exercise of putting ENDA to a vote is an academic exercise. The whole point of ENDA now is about ENDA the next time. Next time, when there is a Democrat in the White House, the legislation will be voted in without a veto. Next time, the people will have heard about the need for a law against employment discrimination, and will favor it in larger numbers. So there is no sacrifice of the many for the few if gender identity is retained now. Rather, the whole purpose of this legislation, and the vote, is to create a robust debate about discrimination, capitalism and the American Dream. ENDA is about high-minded principle, the idea that it is a fundamental U.S. value that all working people have a right to be judged by the quality of their work and not by completely unrelated factors. Here is the chance to educate the people and their representatives about our many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens, and their sufferings under a regime of popular prejudice. There is an opportunity to teach those who are willing to be open that GLBT people are not the mentally-ill pedophiles, sexual perverts and prostitutes of media portrayal, but are mostly citizens like themselves who want an opportunity to participate in civilized society. The idea of leaving transgender people out of the bill and out of this education process not only leaves transgender citizens behind, but also creates the idea that transgender people are so contemptible that even gays and lesbians want nothing to do with them.

The notion that passage of a gender identity bill will follow passage of a sexual orientation bill is dishonest. Given the extreme prejudice against transgender people, and the small size of the community, no one can seriously believe that there will be sufficient political will to pass a gender identity bill in the future. The only hope of protection for transgender people is with the help of those millions of gay people. The example of New York State demonstrates how forlorn is the notion of passing a gender identity bill. In 2002, after a contentious debate, the New York State advocates for an ENDA-type bill deleted gender identity. They promised that, after victory, the GLB community would come and rescue the T community by passing a bill on gender identity. Unsurprisingly, after the bill was passed in New York State without gender identity, the gay community moved on to the marriage issue. There’s been no push for the gender identity bill by gay and lesbian constituents, the few organizations helping the bill to limp along are voices in the wilderness, and it’s gone nowhere. There is no relief in sight for the New York State gender identity bill.

“But if the bill is defeated,” say the utilitarians, “then it’s much harder to pass it the next time if it goes down in defeat the first time, because representatives will fear changing their votes, lest they be accused of ‘flip-flopping’.” But this is a flawed argument, because ENDA was defeated in a vote in 1996, and yet it is still viable. It has been introduced in various versions since 1974, and has never died completely. ENDA is not like a health insurance proposal, or a bill to revise the tax code, or a measure to create a new spending program. Its viability is based on the needs of millions of GLBT people in our society, and it is not going to dry up and go away because it gets voted down once or twice. Rather, it will create an opportunity for millions of Americans to become educated about gay, lesbian, bisexual AND transgender citizens, and the terrible injustices done to them daily because of ignorance and prejudice. Sometimes, the purpose of legislation is the stimulus of debate, the creation of a “teachable moment,” and education of the populace. That is the purpose of ENDA in this legislative session. It’s not going to become law in any event in this session, even if enacted, because of the veto. But it is going to be the subject of a national debate.

Pushing transgender people out of the way undermines the fairness message of ENDA, and will be a terrible misstep. ENDA is about not allowing prejudice to have its way, and I commend that message to the sponsors of ENDA.

( the full post)

Rating (out of five): ΔΔΔΔ

Reading Judith Halberstam’s In A Queer Time & Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives was an altogether thrilling experience for a gender nerd like myself. Halberstam does not rest in one place while meandering through modern portrayals of gender; her flow, while erratic, keeps the reader’s brain jumping and eyes moving. In A Queer Time & Place is a symposium of chapters that probe many subjects, some well-known to the general populace but many not.

Halberstam begins with a number of pages detailing the concept of heterosexual time: there are attributes, or milestones, specific to so-called normal heterosexual lives. She muses on how queer lives in their many forms impact the straight timeline and how the queer digression from the timeline creates differing ideas of time and space.

Halberstam also prompts the reader to both appraise the impact of instant gratification on domestic relationships and examine how queer memory is transformed into a commodity.

At some point during reading one begins to ask themselves, “How do transgender people prove the construction of sex and gender?” When what they aspire to be is one of the binary, or in their brain many transgender people are of the binary? Is theory around gender construction yet another case of modern U.S. culture valuing the outer rather than the inner?

To help answer those potential questions Halberstam notes the distinction between realness and the real. Realness, she argues, is about a desire to take on “attributes” of the real whereas the real is fundamentally a fantasy, an unrequited love with the concept of belonging. Therefore even the real, in this case the gender binary, is shown to be a fantasy everyone is chasing. Eventually Halberstam equates Prosser as stating in Second Skins: The Body Narratives of Transsexuality that transgender people do not prove that gender is a construct or even gender roles. It is cissexual people projecting their desire to believe that the cissexual experience is real onto the transgendered individual. This could be yet another case of making the transgender person a victim in the gender wars.

The chapters move on to address numerous icons of pop culture through a lens of gender acuity. Halberstam does not leave a stone unturned when she deconstructs the full gamut of genre including boy bands, contemporary art and movies like the Austin Powers series, and my personal favorite, the Full Monty.

Halberstam not only focuses on mainstream pop culture icons, she also discusses in depth queer culture icons such as Sleater Kinney, Alix Olson, Matthew Shepard, and so on. Some of her writing about queer culture is fluff, however the majority of her thoughts are deep and revealing of the complexities of the situations people may overlook. The writer frequently makes the decision, for example, to devote a number of pages to Brandon Teena, a well-known hate crime victim, and the media aftermath of the murders. This decision is not a mistake.

To address hate crimes she writes a supremely logical statement within an already steady flow of logic: “The desire, in other words, the desperate desire, to attribute hate crimes to crazy individuals and to point to the U.S. justice system as the remedy for unusual disturbances to the social order of things must be resisted in favor of political accounts of crime and punishment.” She then calls for more narratives on hate crimes through the context of questioning homophobia, racism and classism, all which ultimately are state-sanctioned discrimination. It is not simply about love and hate, she writes, like the Boys Don’t Cry movie implies. The Hollywood movie is simplified for mainstream viewers and distorted into a story focusing more on the romantic connections that Teena develops rather than questioning the system that created an environment that enables persons like Teena’s murderers to commit horrific acts like rape or murder.

Readers, prepare for more than a few preconceptions challenged; Halberstam’s work here goes down easy, but brews into something quite impressionable after settling in just a little while.

( the full post)

Fishing is fun. You get out on the water. The earlier the better: cooler and calmer waters, more opportunities to reel them in, and at 5am you’re too zoned out to really care about what you look like or where you are. You bait the hook and fling it out into the water and gently bob it until some unsuspecting fish grabs hold. If you’re lucky, you wrestle the fish a bit and it’s caught. Then you are given the option of keeping it or tossing it back in the water where it came from. There are many deciding factors, but you usually judge it first by looks. Finally, if you decide to keep the sucker, you take it back with you, strip down the protective scales, gut it, eat it, and pick your teeth with its bones when the carnage ceases.

With the recent onslaught of posts regarding online dating, online hooking, online swinging, and online sinking, (Made the fishing connection yet? If not, please leave.) it was a troublesome task attempting to steer away from the subject that has plagued our minds like Ebola in monkeys, eating away at internal organs and shutting down all bodily functions. Why do you haunt me so? Therefore, when in doubt, I’m just going to embrace it and roll with it and hopefully it won’t blow up in our faces. (Or do we secretly want it to?)

After exercising some expert sleuthing skills I came upon a list of online dating Don’ts for women. (Fine, I opened up a web browser and it was sitting conveniently on my homepage but James Bond still ain’t got nothing on me.) 14 Fatal Online Dating Errors That Women Make. At the end of the not-so-inspiring guidelines, the article gave me a link to Fatal Online Dating Errors for Men. Ten. Men make ten big fuckups while the women make fourteen? Things are looking awry…Getting a closer gander at the lists, it’s blatantly clear how engendered the lists by “writer” David Wygant really are. Yes, I realize that I’m a doofus because why separate lists by sex when you don’t have to? Obviously this engendering was at play from the very beginning. Am I irked by this? Not part, but let’s pretend I am and do a little more investigating. Wygant, let’s use your words:

M: Top 10 email turnoffs for women
W: 14 biggest online dating mistakes women make

M: Women are all about connecting with their minds.
W: Read an article in the sports section. All paragraphs are short so men can digest that information in short bursts.

M: Several women have complained to me that men ask them to send pictures of themselves in bikinis or other such things, so that men can see their body. Men, don't do this!
W: Men are as visual as Scooby Doo on steroids.

Fuck it, I can’t keep going, it’s making me ill. It’s funny to me that all the Don’ts for men revolve around being the proactive and the Don’ts for Women are all about the ladies desperately waiting, cloistered to the…well, cloistered sums it up pretty well actually.

As a response to this dickwad getting the opportunity to say stupid shit, here are a few tips on online dating of my own and I’m not going to explain them:

1. Having a photo is good.
2. Go into it like you’re attempting to make a friend, nothing more.
3. Chill the fuck out.
4. When in doubt, turn off the computer.
5. Masturbate often.
6. When looking for action, use a site dedicated to those activities…or call me.

There. Go buck wild. Dating is a game. Stay calm, collected, and just wait for that fish to bite. They will. Fish are stupid.

Oh yeah, and if you find someone special and get hitched and preggers and all that fun shit just realize that this stuff happens away from the computer…and remember, it doesn’t have to be to the grave. In Bavaria.

Take a peek; the lady is pretty fucking awesome.

( the full post)

Dear Fannie,

I'm a 19 year old college student. I'm a self-avowed feminist and activist. I'm emailing you with an issue I've been wrestling with. One of my best friends has recently decided to transition from male to female. While I am in full support of her transitioning to her true self, I am a little put off by her hyper-feminine gender performance. She feels compelled to wear high heels, skirts, and heavy make-up every day. Before she transitioned she was serious and thoughtful, and now I find her ditzy and spacey. I feel like in her transition, she's trying to play female so much that she's lost herself. How do I tell her that she doesn't have to act like a girly-girl to be a woman?


Not a Girl,

So, you’re best pal is on her way to becoming a gal pal, and you’re concerned that she’s too much of a gal. I think your concerns and discomfort with your friend is emblematic of the longstanding tensions between trans women and feminists. Now, I’m all for gender equality, ending violence against women, and women’s reproductive rights, but for all the good that Feminism seeks to achieve, they have been nothing short of beastly to trans people, especially trans women. When one would assume that people as concerned with gender as feminists are, would be accepting and welcoming of their transgender sisters. However, some of the most acclaimed feminists like the Mary Daly, Germaine Greer, and Janice Raymond are some of the most transmisogynistic and cissexist people I know.[1]

I know that you mean well, but frankly… how is this in any way your business? Being a feminist myself, I understand why you may feel that your friend, in enacting gender conforming behavior for a woman, is reinforcing the gender binary by reproducing conventional femininity. I would agree that reinforcing gender binaries only serves to marginalize one half of that binary i.e. women, and those that don’t fit into either category, but by claiming that your friend is performing “hyper-feminine” gender transforms the pursuit of her sex and gender, into the pursuit of feminine things. By suggesting that your friend is constructing herself as woman via the use of high-heels, skirts, and make-up, you reduce her pursuit for a livable body into an obsession with material goods.

I also think you need to consider how your repudiation for her feminine performance speaks to a broader disavowal of femininity in general. Many feminists are very keen on women becoming equals with men. How will this be accomplished? Clearly, by allowing and empowering women to do everything that men do. But… in doing that, how have we challenged the gender binary? All we’ve done is to encourage both men and women to enact masculinity, or at the very least masculine traits. Now that feminists value traits like assertiveness, leadership, bravery, and logical intellect amongst women, it continues to play into a sexist system of gendered personality traits. Those traits that are affiliated with femininity, like passivity, cooperation, being emotional, etc. are still disrespected and disavowed. Femininity in any context, whether performed by men or women, sexuality and gender identity aside, is a marker for difference and devaluement.

And who died and made you the Arbiter of Gender? I’m sure that your trans friend who is probably going through some of the most difficult times of her life, really needs her feminist , britney-spears-referential, “friend” telling her what her appropriate gender performances as a woman are. I get the feeling that your feelings of concern for your friend are more rooted in a sense of disconnect in someone you once held close. You’re friend’s transition has transformed them into a different person, perhaps a person they had been hiding for a very long time. I think it would be more productive to get to know and love this person who you haven’t taken the time to really know.

It should be noted that these ideas are not exclusively mine. After taking Bookmonkey’s suggestion, I read Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Many of these beliefs can be ascribed to Serano, who is a fantastic, beautiful, and well-spoken person.


Send your questions to


transmysogeny - the hatred or devaluation of transsexual women
cissexism - the idea that cissexual people (people who's biological sex and subconscious sex are aligned) are naturally superior to transsexual people

( the full post)

Creative Commons License