Like most of the folks on this blog, I am someone that lives outside of the binary. I am also a therapist-in-training, and even more unusual, I am a state employee…hired mid-transition. I am a social worker for child welfare services. Which state? Not saying…but it is one that my trans status was not a deterrent to hire. (Also, my office focuses on Indian Child Welfare Act cases, and traditionally, Native societies are often more accepting to those of us outside the gender binary.) I am also open about who and what I am.

Within the office, I am called a range of pronouns: she, he, ze…if we have a guest in the office (interns, social workers from other offices), I have noticed that my co-workers enjoy watching the guest do a double take if I am unshaven and binding and I am referred to as “she” or if I am unbound and clean shaven, and referred to as “he.” Social workers typically have a wicked sense of humor…and I am old enough (and comfortable enough with who I am) to find it funny, too. It is not mean-spirited—I have had enough experience with that type of treatment to know the difference…teasing is part of many cultures and it is something I grew up with, so in this context, it is something that makes me feel accepted. When referring to my gender identity, they usually say I am “two-spirit.”

Outside the office or in front of clients, my coworkers refer to me as “he” (or try). This is by agreement, as my supervisor has told me she feels that the gender fluidity does pose a safety risk (and she is right) with some of our clients. I have had some clients ask “are you a boy or a girl?” My response is either “my name is Luis,” or “what would make you more comfortable with me?” This depends on several factors: age, gender identity or sexual orientation, and their comfort level with me as a person. I find that I am not as rigid with my gender identity as the media says I should be. Strangely—or maybe not so strange—a few of my female clients like me because I “think like a guy” but they have figured out I used to be female, and so I am “safe”…and easier to talk to.

However, there are times I have to appear in court. Some judges have rudely asked me if I am “male or female” (a small minority) and others have chastised defense attorneys for being disrespectful to me, telling them that the only confusion is in “your mind, not his (me).” Still, court remains a bit hard for me. I tend not to use the bathrooms. Which one can I use? Like every transperson under the sun, I have a potty dilemma. In court, it is even worse…either one I use, I could be hauled out and arrested! (I look male, my ID is still female.)

Since I have a goatee, generally bind, and have a low tenor/high baritone voice, being a “he” in the courthouse and meeting with clients makes my life easier…and really, theirs. I know that living outside the gender binary is where I belong, but the power dynamic in my relationship with my clients is NOT where I force my worldview or my ideas on my gender identity. I figure they are not there to have to skip around the question, and I am not there to inflict myself upon them. Do I broaden their worldview? Maybe. Do I want to make a big deal about it? No. My colleagues: attorneys, judges, other social workers…I expect a certain level respect from them. The quality of work alone should get it…but it doesn’t always. I generally laugh at them, and move on. In private, I sometimes feel a bit anguished about it, and it can be very exhausting.

But still, like all of us, I press on.

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Against The Nation?

As far as I am aware, most queer and gender-progressive activism occurs within the context of a nation-state. With the exception of some groups, such as the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), feminist and queer activists usually lead lonely campaigns within a single country. It is thus necessary to ask what effect nation-states (particularly ones that are “ethnically-defined”) have on these movements. How does ethnic nationalism (a powerful ideology that seeks to advance the perceived interests of a particular ethnie) impact gender and sexuality? How does it affect the work of activists seeking to alter dominant patriarchal and homophobic/heterosexist norms?

The principal theorist of the links between nationalism, gender and sexuality is Nira Yuval-Davis. The “big names” in social science thought about nationalism, such as Hobsbawm and Anderson, generally ignore the gendered dimensions of this phenomenon. Yuval-Davis fills this gap in the academic discourse by emphasizing the gender ideologies that proliferate in nationalist thought and action. In Racialized Boundaries, she outlines how a desire to control reproduction is inherent in ethnic nationalism. Membership in an ethnic group is almost exclusively based on being born into it – having the “right” ethnic blood. Reproduction is vital in this case as it ensures the future survival of the ethnie and the replication of its physical and cultural content.

Much of ethnic culture, therefore, is organized around rules relating to sexuality, marriage and the family, and since nationalism does not just create a common past for ethnic community – but also a common future – maintaining an appropriate level of reproduction (whether through anti-natalist, eugenicist or pronatalist policies) is conceived as paramount to the ethnie’s long-term survival. These ideas are echoed by Verdery (1994: 207): “‘nation’ parallels ‘gender’ in linking the physical ‘body’ of the state to a set of meanings and affects, thus rendering physical space socio-political… the standard rhetoric of nation-states effectively ties together control over the subject bodies and over territory.” Similarly, Gal and Kligman (2000: 23) point out that, at least in the case of Eastern Europe, citizens are constantly compelled to present a legally approved, reproductive” sexuality, because the “very concept of nationhood relies crucially on reproductive discourses and practices to make and remake the ‘nation’ and its boundaries.” Indeed, the deep, inextricable connection between nation, gender and sexuality is perhaps best exemplified by the etymology of the word “nation”: it comes from the Latin word, “natus,” which means, “to be born.”

Overall, nation-states, particularly those that are heavily influenced by ethnic nationalism, have an inherent desire to control sexuality and to demand a certain “proper level” of reproduction (which is dependent on the maintenance of patriarchal gender norms). Ethnic nationalism, thus, is very likely to be unfavorable to queer advancement and gender-progressive politics, as it would endanger the imperative of gender and sexual control that is inherent to it. How should activists respond to this challenge, then? Should they actively work “against the nation,” seeking to abolish its validity and advocate a radical politics that would eventually see the state “wither away” (a la Marx)? Should they attempt to accommodate themselves to ethno-nationalist norms and requirements? Or should they perhaps attempt to change the meaning of “the nation,” to move the semantic framework away from discourses about control of gender and sexuality?

Of these suggested tactics, the “abolition of the state” perspective has considerable “radical appeal,” (indeed, states and the international state-system do promote various other injustices, such as war, conflict, economic exploitation etc…). However, it is unlikely to be practical given the fact that people overwhelmingly identify with the nation or state that they were assigned at birth – altering this identification could only be a very long-term goal. Attempting to accommodate to the patriarchal and gender-conservative norms of the ethnic nation-state would be an uncomfortable process, at best – as it would involve arguing that emancipated women and “sexually free” individuals somehow support the social control over gender and sexuality that nationalism mandates. That would, in fact, be impossible.

The idea of reconfiguring nationalism away from an ethnic basis certainly holds the most promise. Promoting a kind of “civic nationalism,” where the nation is identified more with fostering a diverse social order and human rights for all its citizens, rather than the survival of a particular ethnie, would be a promising tactic for gender-progressive and queer organizations seeking to improve the gender and sexual order within their nation-states. This has, in fact, happened in South Africa. Although racial and ethnic tensions are still ever-present, the post-1994 South African state has identified itself considerably with a discourse of human rights – the “nation-state” has been reconfigured as the primary promoter of these rights, rather than the power-vehicle of a particular ethnic group. This discursive alteration has enabled policies such as same-sex legal unions and has fostered the creation of vibrant queer communities in some of the larger towns. Thus, reconfiguring the basis for nationalism, rather than abolishing it, would seem to be the best tactic for dealing with queer and feminist politics within nation-states.

***For More Information***
Nira Yuval-Davis’ work is absolutely pivotal for this subject. If you would like a “short-and-sweet” summary of her main ideas, the article “Women and the Biological Reproduction of the Nation” (in Women’s Studies International Forum. Vol. 19. 1-2, pp. 17-24) is a good place to start. She has also written several fascinating and very accessible books with Flora Anthias, in particular Woman-Nation-State and Racialized Boundaries. For a full bibliography, take a look here.

Other important thinkers on this subject write mostly about particular regions. For example, Deniz Kandiyoti focuses primarily on gender, nationalism and sexuality in the Middle East – her classic text is Gendering the Middle East: Emerging Perspectives. I have mostly studied this subject in the context of Eastern Europe, for which the work of Susan Gal and Gail Kligman is indispensable: Reproducing Gender is the key text – a shorter and more readable alternative is The Politics of Gender After Socialism (2000). Kathryn Verdery’s work is also important – check out her article “From Parent-State to Family Patriarchs: Gender and Nation in Contemporary Eastern Europe” (in East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 8.2, 1994).

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Tough Transitions

Okay, so I’m going to finally write about trans stuff. The problem is, I’ve been hesitant to write about it because I fall into the category of one of those folks who wants to be as supportive as possible of trans issues and help create some dialogue, but I’m still not as educated as I would like to be in order to confidently stand at the front of the picket lines. I majored in gender and sexuality studies in college, but ironically very little of it led me to the study trans issues; we were too busy talking about the gays, gay this and gay that with a little dabble of gender norms here and there. I guess I just need to bite the bullet and write, and risk making a mistake or two. So feel free to call me out.

When the ENDA poo recently hit the fan, I was really upset…and it kind of struck a chord with me from a very, very similar situation I was in a couple years ago:

Back in college I interned for a state-wide gay rights organization in a state where no protections existed in any shape or form against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Our organization was fighting to put a protection on the upcoming ballot, a protection against discrimination for state employees (a protection now required by the passed ENDA). The reality was, and everyone knew, that this move would never pass to be included on the ballot…but they were doing as a symbolic statement to show these rights were in demand. Quite progressively (considering the very red nature of our state), our organization put forth legislative language that included protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity. I admit I kind of expected it; as a young, eager college activist, I thought: “Of course a gay rights organization would be fight for the rights of trans folks. How could one marginalized group leave another one behind?”

A couple weeks into the push to include this on the ballot, powerful (read: $$$$) members of the organization confronted the director about the language on the bill to protect gender identity. One member even stormed into our office in outrage, and I was in earshot of the conversation he had with the director in another room. He first argued that including gender identity would make it impossible for the bill to pass (a reality they already knew would happen anyway). After my director spoke with him about his exact concerns he started to calm down, and then he told a long-winded story about how as an effeminate, gay-curious teenager he was subject to transphobia; people made fun of him saying that because he was gay he was more like a girl than anything, and his family would worry he would become a transvestite and want to maybe have surgery to become a girl (something he resented and has violently rejected since his youth; he was gay…not, God forbid, transgendered).

And that’s one of the big sources of where my frustration with the ENDA comes from. It’s a fear that underneath all of this political stuff about “just getting it to pass” (and I believe the reality is that it really would not pass if it included gender identity), the deep truth is that gay people around this country are uncomfortable with our country's multifaceted transgender community, and further – gay people are excruciatingly uncomfortable with their own gender issues. And while this is definitely for another post, I think the reason this is so is because gay men are being reconfigured in our heteronormative, gender-normative society that can only tolerate other forms of gender variety when they're mocked.

I realize I’m not being particularly objective. I promise something better soon!

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The year is 2007, the place is Zimbabwe. A wave of hysteria sweeps the streets. The Popobawa is here again.

For those that don't know, the Popobawa is a sex demon. Having been accidentally loosed by an incautious magician in the 1970s, the Popobawah (who's name is swahili for "batwing") has come to terrorise the men of the area. How is he doing it? He's using his massive penis.

Though able to shapeshift, the spirit often appears in the form of a winged, dwarf, cylops ogre. He flys at the dark of night and attacks men, espescially unbelievers, in their own bed by pinning them down and sodomising them for hours with his freakishly large penis.

Beyond the obvious trauma of supernatural rape, the men are instructed to tell everyone the ordeal. If they fail to share the story, then the Popobawa will return and rape them again.

Sound ridiculous? For the victims it is a very real experience. Hospitals have had to deal with bruising, broken ribs and a shattered pelvis. The fear is equally as real, during periods of high activity men may choose to sleep outside rather than in the bed where the Popobawa would expect them to be.

Understandably, the international community has looked with scepticism on the claims of our Tanzanian brothers'. With very little effort, we have managed to explain the Popobawa away. There is a physiological quirk with human sleep that means we can't move whilst in REM sleep. Sometimes, this paralysis continues over into the begining of the waking state. The half awake dreamer often adds in something hallucinatory of their own making,and voila, demonic experience.

The experience of Sleep Paralysis often includes a pressing or crushing feeling,so that would explain why the Popobawa is reported as pinning down his victims, but there isn't much in the hypnpompic state that feels like a giant penis repeatedly entering your rectum. Or, for that matter, that would compel you to go out and admit your msenge status. So what's that about?

I, for one, would argue it's about the culture that the victims live in. Sleep Paralysis phenomenon have been around for a long time, and though the basic "I can't move, someone's sitting on my chest" experience always remains central, the window dressing has changed to express the important social dilemnas of the era.

Medieval men had witches ride them, because witches repressented unbound female sexuality and power over men. Monks of the time, who slept with crosses clasped to their groins, where visited by succubi. Female demons who represented sexual sin and nocturnal temptation. (Nuns, conveniently for them, could blame unwanted pregnancies on incubi, the male equivalents of the succubi. Incubi penises, which could be identified by their massive size and freezing temperature, squirted the semen collected by their succubi sisters. Hence why so many of the nun's demonic children looked suspisciously like local men). In the secular era modern America suffers from a surfeit of alien abduction stories, each of which makes an interesting study on America's relationship to the concepts of foreigness and anal-probes.

And Zimbabwe, for all it's comparative liberalism, still suffers from strong taboos against men being penetrated. In a country where same-sex handholding can result in imprisonment, it seems inevitable that the queer should become monstrous. I think it's telling that Popobawa is literally a "one eyed monster".

In all honesty, any country with Mugabe (a rabid,vocal and violent homophobe) at it's head is going to have a gay sex demon in it's head. I find it hard to look at the Popobawa and not see a nation suffering from a masculinity crisis. Popobawa is, to my uninvolved non-sociologist eyes, a voice given to the voicless characters in the national psyche.

But this, I think, is my point. Though it is easy to make a judgement and interperet other people's myths, it's not always the best response. Popobawa shows us that there is a mirroring link between a society and the religion it creates. Our spirits sometimes reflect ourselves more readily than they reflect our reality, and it would be arrogant to assume that the same process is not at work in our own beliefs.

Why, for example, is it important that the Virgin Mary has a perpetual virginity? What does us say about our view of female sexuality? Why are our superheroes straight men,and why can they fly? What does that tell us about our attitudes to the ground and to masculinity?

The Popobawa, for all it's oddness, is an important lesson in the nature of metaphysical belief. As strongly as our beliefs are held, we often hold them for reasons that are more psychological than philosophical.

That's not to say I don't believe giant penises fly through the window. Just that my belief might be based more on personal needs (and who doesn't need a flying penis?) rather than the spiritual reality.

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Have you seen the movie The White Masai? Is it well-known? I had never heard of it until a friend here in Zacatecas lent it to me. I believe her exact description was: "It won't be your favorite movie…but you have to see it. For the experience." Ay Dios was she right.

I mean I had seen similar movies before. The kind where it's in your face, no avoiding the reality, you live in a bubble type movie. But this one hit me in certain places I wasn't expecting and I think part of it was due to the context I watched it in.

To begin with, there are three languages spoken in the movie: English, German, and the native Masai (an African tribe) language. So I understood some, and the other parts I was reading with Spanish subtitles. Changes the experience. Then, as it began, so ignorant and naïve is the little white girl, I say to myself, hey, it's kind of like my story! A woman leaves her home to go live in a foreign culture to enjoy not only it, but also the person she has fallen in love with! Right. Not only grossly generalized, but I'm not sure I could have been more off.

It's the (Hollywood version, I'm sure) story of a Swiss woman who experiences love at first sight with Samburu warrior in Kenya. She leaves her old life behind to begin a new one with him. Based on the book that tells the true story, you are constantly wondering- could I/ would I do something like this? I mean, the entire movie, it was like my little inner-gender alarm was blaring in this sickeningly high-pitched tone with the brightest red light you could EVER imagine. Ever 20 seconds there was a scene, or a character, or an event, or a place, or a reaction, or a comment that I just had no idea how I felt about. So many possible responses: It's cultural. I don't know what it's like. That's a complete disregard for her individual freedom. What would she put herself through that? Is that justified? That's justified. Why. Why? Why!? Oh, I get it. I mean they just went on and on.

I don't think I've actually given my interpretation a thorough analysis. Maybe I’m a little scared to. The comments at the bottom of the above-mentioned website provide some real profound examinations (large amounts of sarcasm were placed in that statement). I mean really, how much do people believe that women will do anything for love? Well…is it true? Which women? Why only women? And is it ok what this Swiss woman put herself through all of those things just for…love? And then there's the fact that with her presence in this village also comes the western presence, a whole different aspect of the movie that you must look at.

I felt that the ending of the movie brought relief but at the same time left many doubts, many questions. It's the never-ending debate of culture vs. an individual's rights. And then came the undeniable question- what would be different right now, at this moment, if I wasn't in Mexico? What would I have been outraged by that now only made me question? What would I have done differently if I were watching this before engaging in the experience I am having now. Really, the root of it all, I, as a white female westerner, am looking at this very differently that anyone who isn't a white female westerner would. The task is to try and think what I would be saying if I didn't fit that profile.

Oh and me having to deal with overbearing, traditional in-laws and a few whistles in the street? Children's games compared to this woman's story. I mean really, in the end, the question is: Can two people from completely different (to full extent of the word) cultures fall in love? Is it possible? Ok, yes? Then can they live a happy life together? What kind of sacrifices would you be willing to make to do so?

Oh Happy Thanksgiving. We're not so in to that here.

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Dear Fannie,

What are your opinions on polyamorous relationships? After a rough relationship that ended over infidelity and trust issues, it became clear that the man I loved could only operate in an open relationship. For my personal comforts, I cannot separate romantic intimacy from sexual activity. What was left was two different relationships posing as one; me with only eyes for him and him with a few people on the side. This felt like torture and thus ended. Can two people with different views on sex and intimacy work it out? Or do we have to draw a line in the sand?

Appreciating Your Insight

I’m sorry to hear about your previous burn from a previous relationship plagued with sex view dissonance. I first want to set up some vocabulary basics on which I want to discuss this topic. Polyamory is defined as “the desire, practice, or acceptance of having more than one loving, intimate relationship at a time with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved,” (thank you wiki). This is different from polygamy, which is one partner (usually male) is married to, or sexual relationships with multiple partners (usually female, at least historically speaking). I’m opposed to polygamy, not only because it is deeply engrained in heterosexual marriage and profound patriarchy, but also because it is hierarchal and the benefits stream seem to flow inward to the prime partner, whilst the spoke relationships get the raw end of the deal.

I don’t like to make blanket statements. Well… maybe I do, but they’re blanket statements with gaping holes in them as to avoid being reductive. But if I were to make a blanket statement regarding non-monogamy I would be for it. And a lot of that opinion is based on the rabid anti-non-monogamy propagated not only by marriage politics, but legitimacy-seeking “LGBT” sell-outs as well. However, as I’ve stated in the past, the only kind of non-monogamy I support is honest and consensual non-monogamy. And I mean actually consensual. What I don’t mean is caving into your boyfriend’s desire to hook up with other guys and leaving you in the dust, as it sounds like you did. Any kind of poly relationship decision should be made conjointly and not as a compromise.

One of the reasons I support polygamy, when it works, is because I think that monogamy sets unrealistic expectations of your partner. Monogamy demands that one person can fulfill all of your sexual, emotional, psychological, and intellectual needs. I have serious doubts as to the viability of that claim. In the end I believe that every successful monogamous couple is, in part, polyamorous. Even if you only are sexually engaged with each other, at some point you realize that there are some needs that you have, whether sexual or personal, that your partner can’t provide.

AYI, I think you’re right that two people with completely different views on sex and intimacy probably won’t work out. However, I think that it may be helpful to understand exactly why your partner is interested in seeking to fulfill his needs outside your relationship. Sometimes those needs don’t involve infidelity. Also, if your boyfriend feels that he needs to have sex with someone else for whatever reason, i.e. he has a fetish that you are unwilling to participate in, then you can encourage him to have you be a voice in that process. If he just has a wandering eye, then I think that you have more of a justification to demand a little more commitment. However, you may want to consider being a part of your boyfriend’s extra-relationship sex. Inviting a third can help your boyfriend satiate his sexual urge for many partners and reinforce your place in his heart and his bed. Remember, just because your partner finds other people attractive doesn’t mean he doesn’t still want you. There’s a reason why he keeps coming back to you.


Send your questions to

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In honor of World AIDS Day, December 1, 2007.

Craigslist is one of my favorite websites, both for practical reasons and entertainment. From apartment-hunting to selling unwanted Star Wars memorabilia to finding an occasional hook-up, it’s a pretty useful site. My friends and I have recently taken to perusing the “m4m” personal ads and laughing at grammatical errors and obvious desperation (cruel, I know, so sue me). So last week I was browsing in the m4m section and came across the most disturbing ad I’ve ever seen. Now, to give you a bit of context, I regularly skim right by ads about “full toilet service,” bukkake sessions, glory holes, and foot worship – and I don’t give them a second thought. Hey, whatever floats your boat, right? But this ad was entitled Bug-chaser seeks poz top.

In case you’re not sure what that means (and I didn’t before a storyline on Queer as Folk addressed the issue), a “bug-chaser” is an HIV-negative person who actively seeks out an HIV-positive person to infect them. I don’t claim to be an expert on bug-chasing, but I know there’s something pretty wrong there. It’s kind of like asking your doctor to inject you with bubonic plague, or licking the pus from a gangrenous wound, or eating the uncooked brain of a rabid dog. Perhaps you can tell I think it’s a little gross. Death wishes are for insane, radical cult members, not Joe Schmo.

I’ve seen plenty of stupidity in these ads before, mostly in the form of HIV-negative guys asking for anonymous tops to come bareback them. And up until this last ad, that’s how I would classify those guys: stupid. But seeing Bug-chaser’s ad put the whole idea of safe sex in a new light for me. Not only are people ignorant about the risks associated with unsafe sex, there are people who are actually TRYING to transmit STIs, and both are continuing to contribute to the worst pandemic in 100 years. What I had previously considered stupidity took on a new tone: malice.

I admit that I’ve had unprotected sex before – with long-term, monogamous boyfriends (all 2 of them!). I know that there’s a certain hotness about not having to use a condom (or dental dam, or latex glove, or whatever); I actually agree with those stupid folks that unsafe sex feels better… but that doesn’t mean it’s worth it! Until you’ve really gotten to know someone – i.e. you know for certain that they’re clean and not at risk for getting any new STIs – why risk your life?

Now don’t get me wrong, I know there aren’t that many bug-chasers out there, and most people realize that HIV (and other STIs) are pretty damn shitty. But ignorance can be just as life-threatening as stupidity. The HIV virus is not always detectable immediately after contraction, and can sometimes be present 3-6 months without showing up in HIV tests; WAY more often than not, HIV is spread by someone who doesn’t know they have it. And when there are lives at stake, there’s no more excuse for ignorance or stupidity.

HIV affects the gay, bi, and trans communities disproportionately, largely because anal intercourse is inherently more dangerous than vaginal intercourse. I don’t mean to downplay the effect of STIs in the straight and lesbian communities (particularly hepatitis and HPV, which is extremely widespread and can lead to cervical cancer), but HIV – despite many advances in treatment – is still the only universally terminal STI. From what I’ve seen, too, gay men tend to be a whole lot stupider about their sex lives than most other demographics, so it’s us that needs the biggest slap in the face.

So for goodness’ sake, folks; there are enough stupid people in the world already; there’s no need to add to their numbers, or the numbers of HIV/AIDS victims – just insist on rubbers. They’re really not that bad.

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It was 1:30am when I hugged Brent goodbye on the corner of Atlantic and Stanford. The night began with a spontaneous trip to BJ’s Bar and Grill and the hope of a second hook-up in a week; it was now ending quietly, with a literal anti-climax—a dreaded embrace to seal the night closed.

Last week, following a similar night out, Brent and I did not take two different paths. We walked down the same dimly-lit street, into my Toyota Camry, and drove back to his place, where we hooked up for the first time since October 2006. More than a year ago, I considered him potential dating material. After a few dinners and sexual overtures, though, we gave up the chase and kept in touch only through random AIM messages and the occasional Facebook update. Recently, for reasons inexplicable to me, we’ve resurrected patterns of more frequent communication, and ta-da: last week’s hook-up.

This week, bored at 11pm on Saturday night, I sent him a message asking what his plans were for the rest of the evening. He said that after a quick bite, he would be returning to BJ’s. He asked me what my plans were. I replied that I had none… until now.

Dejavu: A gin and tonic, whiskey sour, and two Jack and Cokes after we met up, we were gabbing about the usual: the past week’s work and the current night’s eye candy. A flirtatious touch here, an “accidental” rub of legs there… it was only a matter of time before we repeated last week’s blast from the past.

At 1:20am, the crowd began to dissipate, and we headed toward our respective cars. I had expected Brent—always the more assertive one between the two of us—to ask about his/my/our plans for the rest of the evening.

He didn’t. At 1:30am, on the corner of Atlantic and Stanford, he delivered the anti-climactic hug.

Disappointment happens, I told myself. Last week was just a hook-up. There were no expectations about future hookups. Just drive home and go to sleep. At 1:30am. When I’m not tired. And I have nothing else to do.

My car was about two blocks down the road when it hit me: Fuck it. Why was I waiting for him to make a move? I picked up my cell phone, dialed his number, and rattled off the official twenty-something code for “I want to hook-up with you”: Hey, did you want to hang out for a bit before you go home?

At 1:45am, we pulled into the parking lot of my apartment complex… and so did my roommate. My roommate had never seen me bring home anyone unless I was officially dating them, but hey, he knew that I was making efforts to go out a little more—and get a little more. It’d be fine.

Inside, Brent and I moved onto my tiny apartment loveseat, immediately across from a single chair that my ever-so-gregarious roommate quickly occupied. After a while, it became clear that everything was going to be a little too fine with my talkative and friendly roommate. He veered from the usual Ladies Man expert advice he’d give others and cock-blocked with conversation about The Game, fifth grade education, and Miami tourism—all things that had nothing to do with Brent and I getting it on.

Finally, at 2:30am, he grew tired—or took my hints. He drifted into his bedroom, closing his French doors and leaving Brent and I in the living room, on the love seat, alone. Thank goodness. My bed was waiting.

Brent yawned.

Damn it.

So, what are you doing tomorrow morning? I stammered as I tried to restore any energy he had left. A hook-up is never completely prepped without discussing the next morning’s responsibilities.

Coincidentally, his Dim Sum plans mirrored the ones I also made with my friends, down to the same restaurant. I laughed nervously at the thought of a morning-after with us sitting at different tables with two sets of clueless friends. It sounded almost like college.

Brent yawned again. This time, instead of dismissing his sleepiness, I acknowledged it.

Okay, it’s time for you to hit the sack. Are you heading back to your place to crash, or did you want to crash here? Subtextual wink.

I think I’m going to head back to my place, he said.

Damn it.

To my surprise, he counter-offered: How about you?

I gave a quick, split-second thought to the opportunity of a second hookup at his place. It would be nice to wake up next to a warm body again, to make out, and physically vent the week’s stress in an exercise of bedroom wrestling.

Nah, I said, I think I’ll crash here.

Before he left, I leaned toward him for a hug; he apparently thought it was going to be a kiss. His lips met my cheek.

I locked the door as he drove away. When I flipped the living room lights off, the rays of his headlights grew larger—and then faded—on my apartment blinds. I stripped off my clothes, crawled into my double bed, and when I curled my arms around my pillow, I began to wonder what I would tell my roommate the next morning.

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Lisa joins us from Questioning Transphobia:

After working through a handful of articles from Questioning Transgender Politics I feel like I’m repeating myself often in responses because they’re repeating themselves often. I feel like I should deconstruct all of the articles there, but I also felt - while working on part 2 of Sex, Lies, etc. yesterday that I was just running over the same ground over and over again.

The problem is just that bigotry isn’t imaginative. It draws from one poisoned well over and over again. It doesn’t matter what the motivations or the history behind discrimination against a particular oppressed group, the language used is always very similar. The paternalism, the condescension, the vicious attacks, they always take the same forms.

Similarly, the denials take the same forms: There’s no such thing as transphobia, or racism ended in the 60s. Sometimes they say you’re just being oversensitive or you won’t earn any sympathy from me with a tone like that. Maybe they’ll offer up a nasty stereotype to dismiss your voice. A favorite by transphobic radical feminists is that trans women are too assertive and take up too much space.

I know I’ve pointed to Nezua’s glosario, especially the wite-magic attax. He also wrote a series of posts* titled The White Lens. These posts explain viewing the world through a lens of white supremacy, but you can describe this in terms of heterosupremacy, cissexual supremacy, class supremacy, ableist supremacy, and so on - and since privileges intersect as much as oppressions do (as well as intersecting with each other), all of these affect how people view each other. As Nezua says,

When I say “White,” I speak of a system of oppression and bias and judgement that is inculcated into our minds from the very first days, and in ways that are amazingly subtle. All the more subtle is a teaching when it is never stated directly, and all the harder to root out.

Many who hold bigoted ideas will say “I’m not opposed to your rights,” or “I’m an ally,” or “I’m not transphobic, transgender people just say that about me because they can’t handle what I have to say.” This is on a few different levels: The basic one is that most people just plain won’t own their own bigotry. They’ll use the wite magic attax to make it your fault. Beyond that, to most people, their own bigotry is invisible to them. Their lenses won’t allow them to see it. Because being oppressive is harmless to them and rarely has consequences, there’s no point for them to even look for it.

What can be frustrating is meeting someone who experiences one form of oppression but will mimic that oppression down to the last pixel when discussing another oppression. When I see this, I want to ask “How can you not see what you’re doing here is exactly what’s been done to you?” but they always have reasons - their own wite-magic attax - as to why the oppression they inflict on you is okay, while the oppression inflicted upon them is an outrage. Donna at The Silence of our Friends discusses this particular issue with regards to white feminists vs. men and women of color vs. white feminists.

An even more frustrating kind of bigotry is when you encounter someone who is part of an oppressed group and agrees with the oppression focused on that group. In a previous post, I discuss a trans woman’s assertion that trans women can never be women. She’s decided to participate in the oppression of trans women for the sake of approval from cis women, and sets out to validate every negative stereotype they hold about trans women in exchange for a pat on the head. She tokenizes herself for conditional acceptance.

But what gets said is always the same dehumanizing, marginalizing, silencing treatment. Black women have had to deal with ungendering in ways similar to trans women - not seen as feminine enough, seen as masculine, loud, and aggressive, for example. People with visible disabilities are interrogated about their medical histories even more aggressively than trans people are about the shape of our genitals. It’s the same insults, over and over and over again. There’s nothing new, nothing interesting, and nothing exciting about this material. The same invalidation, the same appropriation, the same impositions.

The same violence.

So, if I can’t get to a new article to deconstruct every day, I’m just a little burnt out from reading it all. I’m also wondering if my analyses help to counter transphobia and transmisogyny, or of they’re only good for some catharsis.

Anyway, sorry for the short post. I’ll be back to the usual tomorrow. Hopefully I can find something about “butch flight” to tear into. It’d be a minor change of pace, at least.
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I recently watched Tipping the Velvet with some friends. I thought the direction, cinematography and much of the acting wretched (please, movie gods, never let me see a periscoping effect again) and utterly without subtlety, but I just couldn't resist this BBC film chock full of Victorian gender bending and lesbian sex. As you might suspect, the title comes from a euphemism for cunnilingus. One of my friends liked the romance, two of my friends mocked it relentlessly, and I started out the film trying to unfocus my eyes slightly and imagine Keeley Hawes as Keira Knightley and Rachel Stirling as Martine McCutcheon, if that gives you any idea. Fingersmith, another movie based on a Sarah Waters novel of Victorian lesbianism, is the better film. But where Fingersmith stays primarily with closet lesbianism, pickpockets and cons, Tipping the Velvet takes a broader path with male impersonation, gender roles in employment, the lesbian social scene, strap-ons, prostitution and socialism. It starts with drag, as a fascinated young Nan (Nancy) views Kitty singing and dancing in male impersonation.

I was amused then, when the very next week found me referred me to Ciara's gender-bending music video for Like a Boy:

And then there's this kind of sad performance of What it Feels Like for a Girl (Spanish version here) by gay-boy-adored Madonna:

Or take a look at Boys and Girls by Blur. It's more a commentary on indiscriminatingly sexual British vacation culture, but I've danced my ass off to this song at many a gay bar. It really gets at the fluidity and confusion of sexuality and gender performance these days, even if it is probably criticizing that same blurry haze of loveless sex--let's say the criticism comes in knowing that the same sexually exploratory vacationers would cling to a rigid binary and self-identified sexuality.

Thus segueing away from pop culture and toward science, I'd like to note that Robert Epstein announced in Scientific American his study finding, among other things, that "fewer than 10 percent of subjects score as 'pure' heterosexual or homosexual." He presented on Sexual Orientation Lies Smoothly on a Continuum: Verification and Extension of Kinsey's Hypothesis in a Large-Scale Study while at the 50th anniversary meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality last week.

Unfortunately, here ends my lighthearted banter on sexual orientation and gender expression. Now for the serious stuff. GPAC in August reported on an Ohio University study exploring the intersection of race, gender and sexuality in American classrooms:
A new study shows that teachers tend to view the behavior of black girls as not "ladylike" and therefore focus disciplinary action on encouraging behaviors like passivity, deference, and bodily control at the expense of curiosity, outspokenness, and assertiveness.

You can find the extended article at an academic library near you:
Morris, Edward. (2007) "'Ladies' or 'Loudies'?: Perceptions and Experiences of Black Girls in Classrooms." Youth & Society. 38(4): 490-515.

This sad but unsurprising study reminds me of similar articles in my Education & Social Control class, discussing how cultural means of communication that do not fit within the dominant racialized and gendered mold (for example, too much or too little eye contact) are misread as behavioral problems. Blogger Kameelah has already done an excellent job responding to this information--including providing the referral to Ciara I mentioned above--so kindly check that out.

A recent article in the NY Times, Should Hillary Pretend to Be a Flight Attendant? reveals the continuing gender differences in heterosexual attractiveness of intelligence, looks and economic success, as well as workplace disparities regarding adherence to gender expectations, sexy attire and displays of anger. No comment is made on race in this article, which is rather a shame. I would especially like to see further analysis given to Obama's "fired up" campaign in relation to perceptions of not merely masculinity but black/African-American masculinity.
There is just one thing the article casually mentions that I must highlight:
Hillary Clinton, who is trying to crash through the Oval glass ceiling, may hope that we’re evolving into a kingdom of queen bees and their male slaves. But stories have been popping up that suggest that evolution is moving forward in a circuitous route, with lots of speed bumps.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could avoid assumptions about the necessity of the "opposing" sexes and their struggle for domination? Tough Stuff blames it on capitalism, at least partially. What do you think?

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Dear Fannie,

I’m a 21 year old straight college guy. My best friend is a 21 year old girl. We had a brief sexual fling early in our friendship, but that was over two years ago. Since then we’ve become really close, but just friends (She had a long-time boyfriend whom she only recently broke up with). About a month ago, she told me that had romantic feelings for me, something that evidently has been going on for a while. I told her that I wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship with her, and after a bit she told me that she was over it and that we were good. The other night, I was at a party with her and one of her housemates. We were all drunk, and I ended up making out with my friend’s housemate. Now, my friend won’t speak to me. Did I do something wrong? She told me that she was over it! What should I do now?

Frustrated with Friendship


So your female bff has been nursing a crush on you, and now she’s pissed at you because you started sucking face with her housemate. Were you honestly surprised that making out with someone so close to a friend who just got over a crush on you would be a bad idea? You didn’t think it a bit odd how she was able to magically whisk away her crush, right after you rejected her? While you’re more oblivious than Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, you didn’t do anything “wrong” per se. What happened between you and her housemate is between you and her housemate, and it sounds like none of this was done maliciously. However, you should realize that all humans are a little egotistical, and some have more trouble than others not making everything relate to them.

Your friend obviously has issues with passive aggression. It took her months for her to be honest about her feelings for you, and the cold shoulder treatment is a classic case of non-action. The thing about passive aggressive people, myself included, is that we desperately want direct confrontation. All the hopeful signals or the snide remarks that get put out there are really an invitation to make the first move. Is it a little cowardly? Sure, asking the other person to make the first move, whether its romantically or in a confrontation, is a little unfair. But, that’s just how a lot of people are wired. The best way to deal with someone who is passive aggressive is to confront them directly. Don’t give her any other option other than to deal with the issue. That’s the other thing about passive aggressive people, we like to stew. All that non-action and boiling can be actually pretty emotionally satisfying. Having imaginary fights with someone (where you always win, naturally) without actually having to deal with any of the fallout can be quite tempting.

Call your friend up and tell her you want to meet and talk. In this meeting don’t be aggressive, but be clear, direct and honest. There’s a good chance that she’s played this scenario about 50 times in her head before your actual meeting and has plenty to say. Be patient and let her get everything that she needs off her chest. After that, go ahead and clarify that you didn’t intend on hurting her and still want to be friends. I hope all goes well for you, FWF!


send your questions to

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In light of a city buzzing with a queer film festival, I started thinking about what opened my eyes to my queer, feminist, trans-positive consciousness in art; Where do I lay my roots, so to speak?

The answer: not so simple. I often hear others talk of their first recognition of what it meant to be queer. They range from sexual experiences, a talk with their parents, or simply a realization brought on by something incredibly abstract. My root is more of a root-system; tangled, tight, and complex, it is hard to discern where it starts and where it begins.

I say this primarily because my queer politics came significantly before my queer sexuality. It occurred to me at a very young age that being queer was O.K., even normal, while it occurred to me much later in life that I, in fact, identified my sexuality and gender presentation as queer.

So? I want a root! Everyone else gets one! I don’t want to be the only one at the pride parade with an amorphous queer past! My solution: I’ve decided to pick my own queer genealogy.

Well, I shouldn’t say that; I’m not picking it, per se, but creating a new concept of what the root is. Instead of this instant shock of knowledge, I’m looking at what gave me my sense of openness and acceptance when it comes to gender and sexuality. I’m taking a close look at my history to help trace my little queer evolution, in mind and not just body.

Can you guess what my brain came up with? You guessed it: Art. Art of all forms helped mold my open-minded baby brain into the big queer tree it is today. First and foremost, I can tell you all with confidence my first queer realization came when I was about 11, reading a book my lesbian Aunts gave me (thank god I come from a family of queers!) called “Weetzie Bat” by Francesca Lia Block. Block’s writing is full of characters with all sorts of gender presentations and sexualities: little girls wear skate shoes and boys look for their princes all within short, succinct, bath-tub reads meant for our young ones. The pleasure I got from reading a story about a guy loose in L.A. looking for his special someone was unmatched. The stories were glittery, effervescent, and just bursting at the seams with open minds and hearts. I still read Weetzie’s story at least once a year, along with Block’s series of stories, and they still lead me close to tears every time.

But, it doesn’t end there. I was lucky to grow up in a house full of music. “Name that Tune” was a family favourite, as my dad flipped through the car radio and gave us 10 seconds each to guess who the artist and song were. Tracy Chapman, Ani Difranco, et al. filled my living room and my head. I was listening to messages of queer acceptance long before I realized what they were. And, it was awesome. I remember the first time I realized someone was gay… and it barely registered. It was just another way people were, and it felt awesome to have already learned queer acceptance before I learned exactly what queerness was.

And this isn’t to extol any superior evolution I’ve had that others haven’t-- not in the slightest. This is to extol the power of art in our culture. Imagine if every kid was exposed to the litetature of queer people, people of colour, disabled people, trans people, and so on? Imagine if every kid learned acceptance before they even had a chance to shape their own behaviour; the opportunity to follow ones feelings, impulses, and creativity would only multiply with the multiplicity of influences these children received.

And I think that might be pretty awesome.

Check out The Image.Nation Website if you feel like queering your current mindset (and you’re in Montreal, of course) or do some googling to find out where your nearest Queer Film Fest is!

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Gay Babies

The below poster of a baby, with the word “homosexual” written on its armband, is part of a proposed campaign by the left-wing administration of Tuscany (a regional government within Italy) to combat homophobia. It represents an attempt to teach people that, because homosexuality is not a choice, gays and lesbians should not have to face discrimination. This kind of “no-choice” approach is nothing new. Gay conservatives wholeheartedly adopted it (throughout the 1990s) and it effectively became the centerpiece of mainstream GLBT organizing in the United States. The “genetics-inspired” notion that one is homosexual or heterosexual at birth does not play a significant role in the theorizing of major conservatives, such as Bruce Bawer and Andrew Sullivan. However, they both expend considerable amounts of ink claiming that homosexuality is “essentially unchosen,” “innate and intrinsic,” and fixed by “at least the age of three”. Their purpose is the same as that embodied in the Tuscany administration’s poster above.
Is this essentialist vision of sexuality valid? Although sexuality is certainly not a simple choice (if we think of choice as switching a light-bulb on or off), the “no-choice” portrayal of it is definitely lacking. It ignores people whose sexualities change over time, bisexuals, and gender-queer sexualities that defy categorization within the homosexual-heterosexual binary. What, for example, would essentialists make of someone who is in a relationship with a transgender man who has a vagina? Is that “homosexual” or “heterosexual”? Furthermore, although people do not simply get up in the morning and decide to turn homo or heterosexual, what is wrong with choosing to be open-minded and experimental with one’s sexuality? Is this not a value that GLBT and queer organizations have a right, and even perhaps a responsibility, to promote? The “no-choice” version of sexuality essentially delegitimates sexual exploration and open-mindedness and works to reinforce the rigidity of homosexual and heterosexual identities, which – if you accept the Butlerian perspectives portrayed in my previous post – may actually increase tensions between straight people and the GLBT community.

The “no-choice” strategy represents an attempt by various elements within the GLBT community (and “well-meaning” left-liberal politicians) to afford homosexuality the same privileged discursive status as heterosexuality: as an unquestioned, bio-psychological given. As such, it is an easy example of how knowledge-power (as portrayed by Foucault) works. The dissemination of the “knowledge” that homosexuality is not a choice attempts to empower gays and lesbians by placing it on the same semantic level as heterosexuality. Unfortunately, under such a framework, the attainment of rights and fair treatment become dependent on the fixity of one’s sexual aim: all those who do not demonstrate such a “stable” sexuality are then implicitly excluded from the nexus of rights and privileges.

Despite all of the flaws mentioned above, can the “no-choice” strategy” be justified as politically expedient? Could it work as short-term tactic that will make the attainment of marriage rights and non-discrimination laws considerably easier? Indeed, U.S. public opinion agencies have documented a link between public support for gay rights proposals and the notion that homosexuality is not a choice. Belief that homosexuality is innate seems to be pivotal in inspiring most people’s support for anti-discrimination laws, such as ENDA. Although the passing of important legal measures may well be speeded by the promotion of such a discourse on homosexuality, it represents no guarantee that prejudice and discrimination will abate. Take the example of the physically and mentally disabled, who despite not having chosen their non-normativity, and having gained considerable legal battles, still face incredible levels of discrimination. Promoting the idea that sexuality is not a choice may facilitate the passing of certain laws – however, these laws in themselves are not going to end homophobia or sexism.

Basing an entire GLBT rights campaign or movement around the “no choice” strategy is, thus, a mistake. What would some alternative approaches to fighting homophobia look like? What other kinds of frameworks could be used to attack prejudice against non-heterosexual people? Homophobia could be portrayed simply as gender discrimination or sexism – indeed, the notion that a particular sexual aim is intrinsic to men and women is just the same as any other requirement in the sexist “life plan” that is drawn out at birth for each sex/gender. Another way of going about it would be to emphasize the inherent value of sexual autonomy in itself. The notion that human sexuality should be as free as possible (within adult-consensual constraints) may very well have its own appeal and is more inclusive of all sexual and gender identities. By promoting sexual autonomy in general (and not the rights of a particular identity-community), there is more of a chance that non-binary and unfixed sexualities will be adequately represented and subsequently legitimated. It is time to go beyond the “no choice” strategy, and the “gender discrimination” and “sexual autonomy” frameworks provide interesting road-maps for a new direction in GLBT activism.

***For More Information***
To find out more about the poster campaign in Tuscany, look here. I have taken a bit of a break from theory in this post – nevertheless, there are still some interesting works to check out. For further elaborations of the “no-choice” perspective, see Bruce Bawer’s A Place at the Table and Beyond Queer (edited by Bawer). Also, have a look at Andrew Sullivan’s various writings – the book Virtually Normal sums him up quite well. For a deeper look at the knowledge-power nexus and discourse theory, see Foucault’s Knowledge/Power: Selected Interviews and Other Writings. A strong case for sexual autonomy can be found in Michael Warner’s The Trouble With Normal.

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Good As You joins us with "Audio: An ear to the House floor":

The ENDA debate is currently playing out on the House floor, with a vote expected to come later today. So, being the mensches that we are, we thought we'd let you listen in to some of how it's played out in the last couple of hours. Get ready to be both inspired and enraged:

(Link to full article [with fun sound bites!])
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In my last post I discussed the links between Halloween, Queer and the Uncanny. I finished with a vox pop of religious speakers which illustrated the link that's drawn between queer people, monstrosity and violence. Obviously, "some people don't like us" isn't a particularly useful or original conclusion so in this, my slightly delayed follow up article, I'd like to suggest a few ways we can use the tropes of Halloween to repurpose our uncanniness.

My idea, simply, is to embrace it. If people call us monsters, let's be monsters. It's not a recipe for year long happiness, but neither is denying the narratives that have been written onto us. In small doses, being a horror can be healing. Let's reclaim the awfulness that's attributed to us and make it our own. We cannot escape the stories of our society, but we can engage with them, fearlessly understand them and, eventually, own them.

It would be crass of me to tell you how to deal with such a personal matter. But I will make two suggestions: Halloween and Witchcraft.

Halloween's relevance I've already explained and Witchcraft, as another bug bear of the religious right, is an obvious ally in our deviance.

The occult thinking that I grew up with (bless the Internet) taught that each of us is not one person, but many. Developing out of a bastardised psychoanalysis, the idea was that each person was actually a community of characters. The part of you that calls itself "me" is more visible, but not more important than the various "hidden" people inside you.

From this point of view, Halloween is about those especially hidden parts of yourself. It's about those creatures in us that, due to fear or loathing, we've pushed out to the basement of the psyche. The Monsters we honour at Halloween are the fragments of ourselves that we normally starve and abuse. If we are brave, we can go further than just a cursory nod in their direction. We can admit that these monsters are part of us. We can, though it seems unpleasant, learn to love the mutants we keep hidden in our sewers.

To this end, I dedicated October to my monsters. I hoped, through ongoing acts of kindness, to begin a dialogue and see what I could learn. My aim, importantly, wasn't to "cure" my monsters. I was trying honour and commune with them as they where.

I started by working out those parts of myself that I hated. I brain-stormed all my neuroses and catalogued all my worst fear about myself.After that, I grouped my various types of self loathing into categories and began to flesh out my/their personalities. I gave each a name and lit did rituals for each of them as a symbolic reconciliation.

To tie into the Halloween vibe, I began to find costumes for each of my characters. I fashioned feathered hot-pants for Leticia the drag queen show girl, a rayon crop top for Mikal my inner nancy boy, and make-up for Pierre my weak beat poet. Searching and making the costume became an homage to my own repulsiveness, and I slowly began to develop a grudging affection for myselves.

Central to the costume was the mask. Masks are not only an adequate metaphor for the process of identity, they also suggest an escape route from it. Mask wearing is a liminal state of I-but-not-I, and as such is a perfect place to have a dialogue with your monsters. Obviously, the resonance between Masks and Halloween is well established and I kept being reminded that often, when people put on masks, they are actually trying to show there true faces.

The climax of my month came on Halloween night. I put on all the pieces of the costume and invited my monsters to make themselves known. Looking in the mirror, I was repulsed. I looked gay, and ugly, and unplanned. I took this as a good sign. Monsters, obviously, should be monstrous.

Then I went out dancing, and I humiliated myself. I basked in my ugliness, my unacceptability. I was foul and degraded and, shockingly, proud. It didn't matter that a room full of people thought I was unimpressive and unattractive, I was amazing anyway. Being the shallow attention seeking puff stopped being a problem and became a joy. I crossed a line in my head and became my monsters.

Next morning I dissasembled my Halloween altar racked with embarresment. I'd been my monsters in public, a powerful but painful act. Though I can't claim complete psychological equilibrium, my Halloween ritual was an important personal step towards wholeness.

My elaborate ritualising isn't going to be for everyone, but Halloween is an important reminder of our own self censorship, and I think it forces us to make a choice. Do we hide in the light? Or do we walk fearlessly with both sides of our nature?

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The last blog I wrote and the response it received got me thinking- where do our opinions come from anyway? Sociological analysis aside, how do we form our opinions and for how long do they last? I'm thinking from a more rudimentary level, here. Why are there some things you are 100% sure of your entire life and others that change with each new person you meet? For someone who not only rivals all the burros in Mexico with her level of stubbornness but who at the same time cherishes her ability to learn from people, I am thankful to have seen, met, and experienced what I have so that my opinions could change and develop such a great deal.

I have said it before and I will say it again: I can't stand people who are a. convinced they're right all the time or b. "too much" of anything (too liberal, too conservative, too preppy, too punk, too much of a partier, too much of a bookworm). It's not the most impartial way to be but I've accepted that it's how I see it. I just feel very strongly that it only limits one's perspective and does not allow a person to experience life to the fullest. Our society is how we've made it and ignoring it will only perpetuate its imperfections. I used to be so afraid of saying that. That I was supposed to desperately want to be one of those ultra-liberal, I-believe-anything-is-ok, being politically incorrect is the worst sin I could commit, I should wear only hemp clothing people. One thing is being in absolute agreement with the idea that a person's life is their own and can be lived in the style he or she chooses. Another is being so set in one way or one idea that you are incapable of seeing another, seeing the logic or the root of that perspective. Enter – my life in Mexico.

Now I write this because I am with the understanding, and with complete acceptance, that plenty of people that read what I write do not feel I reach their level of what they would call a "feminist". I'm over it. But it got me thinking- how much have my ideas and opinions changed since I adapted to my life here? How has my definition of what's ok and what's not, how I see my own life, what I want for myself, the role of women vs. the role of men changed? The answer is- a lot. Those things have changed a lot. I've had to get used to hearing things that would make my blood turn cold and the only thing that softens the blow is the fact that in Spanish my brain doesn't, or won't, capture the full meaning. I have had to become ok with the idea that gender roles just don't matter to as many people as I thought they once did. That I enjoy being feminine a lot more than I used to allow myself to admit. But most importantly- that I can't always let my ideas flow freely if I really want them to make a difference.

I've thought the following things more times than I'd like to count:

"Wow. Wow? He actually thinks that."

"She has no idea she doesn't have to put up with that."

" Mmhmm. In another time and place, I would have had fire coming out of my ears to hear that word. Now I just have to bite my tongue"


So why do I put up with these things? If in the past it was all arguments, discussions, and learning experiences, why have my opinions changed? I think I've just realized that it's not necessarily the opinion that has changed but the way I choose to approach it based on the environment I'm in- whether that be the country, city, party, or coffee shop. I think a lot of people get used to being in a world, however small or limited it may be, that supports them and the way they think. I was one of them. But now, I'm surrounded by some of the most amazing people I've ever known- and I couldn't disagree more with them on certain issues. These issues used to be deal-breakers for me. Now, I see them as opportunities. As ways to slowly, but oh-so-surely, get a new idea or a different perspective in there. I'm not sure if this is living in Mexico or just leaving my comfort zone in general but I think it's a good thing.

So if now your response is that I am losing sight of the whole pint, or maybe that I never even understood it to being with, go on wit ya bad self. I'm gonna stick with this method. I think, for now, that it's ok and it's how I've learned to approach things. But don't worry, ask me tomorrow and maybe I'll have a completely different response.

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Dear Fannie,
I've got a girlfriend. All the other girls I've dated have been long distance or some variation of not really girls (one closet MTF who didn't want to be seen as a girl just yet, and one FTM). She's understanding, supportive, cuddly, she listens well, etc.

She just got out of a relationship with this guy who was utterly dependent on her. Both of our previous relationships have come up briefly and as far as I can tell, she's still feeling a bit 'used up' from taking care of someone else so much. The thing that bothers me is that sometimes, I'm a complete and total moron. I get stressed out or depressed to the point where I'm worthless. Treatment helps it happen less often, but I've yet to reach the point where it completely stops happening. She's made it clear that if she didn't want to stick around, she would be long gone. I don't want her to ever have to see it, but if we're going to stick it out through the long run, she'll probably have to. I don't want to her freak out. I'd only be a worthless pile for up to a week, but it's still not something I can say she'd put up with.

So here's my question: How do I let her know that despite my best efforts, it still may happen, without making it seem like I'm a waste of her time? I want her to evaluate whether or not being with me is something she wants to do.
-don't wanna lose someone who loves the Weird that is me

(Note: the above question has been edited down… believe it or not. For the full unabridged question, it will be post-scripted)


Here’s a word of advice. Shut. The. Fuck. Up. I say that in an honest to god, loving and compassionate way. But you have a tendency to talk way too much. You’re acronym has ten words in it – case in point. So what you’re really asking is how do I tell my girlfriend that there are certain times in my life where I need to be alone, and not so horribly offend her that she’ll leave me? Well… the answer is… to just tell her.

So, you’re girlfriend just got out of a relationship with a parasite of a boyfriend who drained the life out of her. And you’re afraid that any resemblance that you may have to that behavior will send your girlfriend into an uncontrollable relapse and flee from your arms forever. Give your girlfriend a little more credit here. It’s pretty clear that she’s a big girl and can handle herself. Treat her like an adult and don’t sugar-coat or cushion your revelation. I’m reminded of the advice I gave to FIST, the more anxiety you treat a confession, the more reason your partner will have to be anxious. So take a chill pill… or four and just be honest.

There’s no shame in needing alone time. In fact, I would recommend it for any couple. If you need a week to deal with your problems, then take a week. She’ll probably be happy that you did. If you’re girlfriend is half as awesome as you say she is, than I’m sure she can survive an entire week without you. If you don’t think that your relationship can survive a week of downtime… you’ve got more problems than your weeklong anxiety attacks.

I would chastise you for the mini-bashing of the “not really girls” in your opening paragraph. But I’m afraid that calling you a transmisogynist might send you into a fit of “uselessness.”

I hope you and your girlfriend work out, DWLSWLTWTIM. And as my good friend Mika says, “Relax, Take it easy.”


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The unabridged question is as follows:I've got a girlfriend. This is amazing and wonderful on so many levels. All the other girls i've dated have been long distance or some variation of not really girls (one closet mtf who didn't want to be seen as a girl just yet, and one ftm). She's got all the important things down. She's understanding, supportive, cuddly, she listens well, and she's capable of having an intellegent conversation for hours, or a completely stupid conversation until we both fall out laughing.

She just got out of a relationship with this guy who was utterly dependent on her. Ok, not just, but it was her last relationship, and the end of it happened within a year. Both of our previous relationships have come up briefly, which isn't a bad thing at all, and as far as i can tell, she's still feeling a bit 'used up' from taking care of someone else so much. The thing that bothers me is that sometimes, i'm a complete and total moron. I get stressed out or depressed to the point where i'm worthless. Treatment helps it happen less often, but i've yet to reach the point where it completely stops happening. She's been around when i've been feeling stressed out or depressed, and she is absolutely amazing about it. She's made it clear that if she didn't want to stick around, she would be long gone, and that she's supporting me and loving me because she wants to, not because she somehow feels she has to.

She hasn't yet seen me be useless. Utterly and totally nonfunctional. I don't want her to ever have to see it, but if we're going to stick it out through the long run, she'll probably have to see it at least once. I don't want it to happen and have her freak out. I'd rather let her know it's a possibility beforehand, and have her decide if it's worth it beforehand. Granted, her ex was completely dependent on her for about the entirety of their relationship, and i'd only be a worthless pile for up to a week, but it's still not something i can say she'd put up with.
So here's my question: How do i let her know that while i'm doing everything i can to keep it from happening, it's still something that may happen, without making it seem like i'm telling her i'm a waste of her time? I want her to evaluate whether or not being with me is something she wants to do, not feel like i'm saying it because i feel bad about myself that day?

-don't wanna lose someone who loves the Weird that is me

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Fall Back

The first of four times that I have ever ventured to a club alone was when I was in high school. My family took a cruise from Los Angeles to Baja California, and, one night, my parents and younger sister wanted to sleep in our cabin early. Still awake, I somehow convinced my parents to let me roam the vessel; what kind of trouble could an underage minor get into anyway when confined by the rails and walls of a boat?

I don’t know what I was looking for when I wandered into the ship’s (straight) dance club. I had never touched alcohol, nor had I ever rocked a dance floor without a chaperone hovering a dozen yards away. I believed, at the time, that listening to music in a dark room might have been entertaining enough for me. I sat at a table and bounced my head to beats for a few hours. Although I worried about being carded, no one approached; I wore my most adult-looking clothes and passed as a young, bored college student. Not drinking, dancing, or socializing, I’m sure I looked the part.

Three years later, I was an intern in Sacramento. At nineteen, I found myself as the youngest summer employee at my company. Although I imagined myself to be mature for my age, I still couldn’t assimilate into the social circles of the other drinking-age workers. The only source of night life for me was the local 18-and-up gay club. Just on the verge of coming out, though, it was an experience I kept putting off.

I don’t know what I was looking for when I finally—and nervously—drove to the gayborhood, parked my car, and meandered my way to the club. As I stood at the entrance, I desperately avoided eye contact with anyone who might have identified me as an inexperienced homosexual virgin (exactly what I was). In line, I pretended to talk to someone on my phone to keep myself busy and deter any scary gay strangers from starting a conversation. Inside, again, I kept to myself. I sat alone at a high round table near the dance floor. As on the cruise ship, I bounced my head more than I shook my body on the dance floor.

Halfway through the evening, another young guy came to me and asked me why I wasn’t dancing. I shrugged, and not knowing what to do with a flirtatious man, I lied that I didn’t really want to dance. He smiled, nodded, and left to talk with his own friends. I continued with my night, still alone.

It’s the only time in my life I’ve ever been approached by another man at a gay club.

The third outing was on an unlikely night to be by myself: my twenty-first birthday. My family allowed me to celebrate in Las Vegas, which I had always thought would be a fabulous idea. Their permission, however, also came with their presence. Furthermore, the date of my birthday also collided with the start of the several college semesters, leaving my friends unavailable to help me escape from my parents.

I don’t know what I was looking for when I decided to stay out after my family returned to the hotel room for the night. I rambled from hotel to hotel, spent about $20 worth of nickels and quarters at various slot machines, and found the only gay club on the Strip, Krave. I found my way to a counter stool, bought a Corona, and then did something that I thought might make a good twenty-first birthday story: I danced on a pole in Las Vegas. Had I friends surrounding me, it might have been funny; because I was alone, however, I think I gave off a pretentious asshole vibe—what kind of chutzpah did I have, after all, to dance on a pole in Vegas? No sooner had I gotten off the pole did a six-pack-bearing stud rise to my perceived challenge, flipping and sliding the hell out of the pole and making my moves look like a Chuck E. Cheese mascot playing on a stage. I was defeated; I bought another Corona, sat down, and bounced my head to the club’s beats.

Two nights ago, after my tired friends fell asleep early at their respective apartments, I went to a club alone: Houston’s hot spot for gay night life, South Beach. Unlike the other clubs to which I’ve made independent field trips, I had visited this one twice before. It wasn’t a new place, I remembered when cover would be free, and I expected to park in my same curbside spot. I was bored, I had energy to spare—so why not?

I knew exactly what would have been ideal: I would start with a drink, bounce my head to the beat while sitting at a counter, but this time, I would get my ass off the stool, hit the dance floor, and move. I would find a young guy who, like me, was dancing alone. I would step closer to him. I would not hesitate to make eye contact as he approached and we started to dance. And it would not matter to me if that was it—if it was a fleeting moment on the floor, if he left with his friends without me or my number, or if he decided to dance with someone else afterward. Because it would’ve been enough to prove to me that I can make it on my own.

That night, I had two drinks. I bounced my head. And for an hour and a half, I grooved on the dance floor. In the fog, in the flashing reds, yellows, and blues sweeping the floor, I inched toward a few cute guys and good dancers. Nothing. I traveled across the floor. No approaches. No eye contact. There might have been a friend who tried nudging his friend into me; aside from that—nothing.

Last night, a friend messaged me, wanting to make the most of the Fall Back time change and head out to a bar. In the mood to procrastinate, I agreed. We went out, had a few drinks, talked about life, and ended up going back to his place for my first anything in six months. And while it wasn’t the best night ever, it was a little more fruitful than my generally-disappointing nights out alone. Despite that, and as shallow as this sounds, I get the feeling that any sort of success I can earn on my own as an object on the dance floor might mean so much more than a pre-established cuddle and make-out buddy. While I’ve always held it ideal to fall in love with personalities and histories, there is a certain sense of pride and glory that comes from being wanted without spilling a single seed of personal information. It means that no matter how much of a success or failure you are in life, you will always have something to hold onto or to fall back on: your looks. Ironically, this is an ugly truth: that the appeal of his physical attraction is something that a person can prove, in which he can take comfort, all by himself; it is something that I, unfortunately, have yet to prove to myself. How many more outings will it take?

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I admit I have the travel bug. Life and hard work have granted me the means to scratch that itch more than once. That said, there are certain countries I hesitate to visit because of gender issues. While my sexuality makes some countries uncomfortable or less desirable to visit, it’s the gender flag that makes me worry about being physically unsafe. I don’t necessarily mean my genderqueer status, either—I can pass as "female" and still worry about the security of my body.

A recent NY Times article reminds us that boys and men can be similarly vulnerable—and can face even more difficulty accusing their rapists in the face of both hegemonic masculinity and homophobia. Alex, a French adolescent studying at the American school in the United Arab Emirates, was threatened and chain-raped by three UAE natives: a 17 year old classmate, an 18 year old, and a 35 year old.

"The authorities not only discouraged Alex from pressing charges, he, his family and French diplomats say; they raised the possibility of charging him with criminal homosexual activity, and neglected for weeks to inform him or his parents that one of his attackers had tested H.I.V. positive while in prison four years earlier. … The doctor, an Egyptian, wrote in his legal report that he had found no evidence of forced penetration, which Alex's family says is a false assessment that could hurt the case against the assailants. … United Arab Emirates law does not recognize rape of males, only a crime called 'forced homosexuality.' "

I find the language of this article of some interest, particularly as it references nationalities and "former convicts" and the like. For now, however, we focus on its two central claims: 1) that UAE justice system does not treat its foreign residents as it treats its native residents. 2) that homophobia allows not only direct harassment of gays but influences the way the health system responds to HIV.
"At least 90 percent of the residents of Dubai are not Emirati citizens and many say that Alex's Kafkaesque legal journey brings into sharp relief questions about unequal treatment of foreigners here that have long been quietly raised among the expatriate majority. The case is getting coverage in the local press.

"It also highlights the taboos surrounding H.I.V. and homosexuality that Dubai residents say have allowed rampant harassment of gays and have encouraged the health system to treat H.I.V. virtually in secret. (Under Emirates law, foreigners with H.I.V., or those convicted of homosexual activity, are deported.)"

Reading this, however, I have to wonder whether an Emirate boy would have even tried to press charges. Sometimes the bindings of culture and religion are stronger than legal barriers. I remind you that I'm very ignorant: all I previously heard of Dubai was that it is a popular tourist spot, economically successful, and widely considered a safer, more progressive point in the middle east. According to the CIA World Factbook, UAE is "a destination country for [human trafficking of] men, women and children…for involuntary servitude and for sexual exploitation." It seems also that the cultural and legal environments provide no safe space for males who are victims of rape.

Curiously, UAE is the safe haven for the three child actors whose work in the film Kite Runner may have made them unsafe in Afghanistan. Two of the boys are involved in a rape scene (left mostly off camera in the final version of the film). Part of the problem is political, inflaming already unstable relations between Pashtun and Hazara ethnic groups.
"In January in Afghanistan, DVDs of "Kabul Express" — an Indian film in which a character hurls insults at Hazara — led to protests, government denunciations and calls for the execution of the offending actor, who fled the country."
Part of the problem is cultural, that of masculinity and homophobia:

"the Kite Runner actor who plays Hassan…told reporters at that time that he feared for his life because his fellow Hazara might feel humiliated by his rape scene."

Needless to say, the film will not be making its way into Afghanistan officially; the concern for the actors' safety rises from the inevitability of a pirated film release.

In closing, I want to shift from homophobia in the middle east and southern asia, the difficulty in getting legal and media attention for real concerns like male rape and HIV, and the censorship of film…to transphobia in the US lgb(t?) community, and the censorship of film. Catherine Crouch's 20 minute science fiction film, The Gendercator, expresses her concern that butch lesbians are being socially pressured into transition and gender assignment surgeries.

"The movie caused widespread outrage within the transgender community after it was screened in Chicago earlier this year. Objections were raised to the film's depiction of transgender people and activists successfully petitioned Frameline, producers of San Francisco's LGBT film festival, to remove the movie from its schedule.

"The unprecedented decision enraged lesbians upset at what they considered censorship and they demanded that the film be shown. The LGBT Community Center's women's program then stepped in to organize a screening and panel discussion with both sides of the debate." Please, read more.

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