It seems Below the Belt is on a literate kick of late. But then, I’m a librarian; my nose is perpetually stuffed in at least one book or movie.

So, let me now link a relatively recent article on how patient care continues to suffer in the area of reproductive health with a 1976 sci-fi novel that manages both to describe the appalling nature of health care—particularly toward women—in our past and to envision a compelling utopia in which gender becomes just one more attribute.

Okay, then. So. The article discusses how not only pharmacists, but also physicians, are claiming their moral/religious beliefs require them to refuse involvement in various aspects of birth control, the morning-after pill, fertility assistance, and abortion. Although a few states have laws to protect patient rights in this arena, laws and medical policies typically privilege the medical professionals. This priority holds particularly true regarding the ever-controversial issue of abortion; Congress allows federally-funded health providers to refuse to provide abortion services, and of the 46 states with their own physician opt-outs, 27 recently broadened the refusal policies. But lest our anti-abortion readers think the legislation stops there, 16 states have refusal clauses for performing sterilization and 8 for prescribing contraception.

"This is about the rights of the individual, about our constitutional right to freedom of religion," says Frank Manion, an attorney with the American Center for Law and Justice, a legal group in Washington, D.C. Founded by minister Pat Robertson, the organization has represented health care providers and lobbied for laws that protect them. "We're not trying to deny anybody access to treatment," Manion adds. "We're saying, 'Don't make your choice my choice.'"

This is particularly problematic when insurance and income prevent some patients from seeking more comprehensive services elsewhere. Thankfully, some legislation seeks to protect patient rights. About one-fifth of states now require or strongly encourage emergency rooms to counsel about and/or offer emergency contraception to rape survivors. Although the effort failed, Virginia’s HB2842 would have required pharmacists to, oh you know, fill prescriptions. Obviously we have a long way to go, but people are wrestling with these issues.

And that bring me back to how far we’ve come since Marge Piercy wrote Woman on the Edge of Time. We aren’t quite as bad about putting (poor, minority) women into mental health facilities just for challenging the patriarchy in some way. Yay, us. Survivors of domestic abuse are now much better-supported, on the whole, in both medical and legal fields. The ethics of medical experimentation have vastly improved, although there remain concerns about the overparticipation of underprivileged groups.

But we still treat gender and race as significant, innate categories. We still glorify a tough masculinity. We still mistrust people’s ability to understand their own bodies and be involved in their medical and psychological assessment and treatment. We still tend to blame the individual for society problems. (Go back another century and we have Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s "The Yellow Wallpaper.")

So, not to sound like I don’t appreciate the progress we’ve made, but…that’s all pretty depressing to me.

I was, however, rather delighted by the utopia Piercy offers. Fluid, self-chosen, yet communal identity. Self-chosen, changeable names. Person/per for pronouns. Sexuality however consenting parties like it. The only real taboo is violence. Work enough to support the community but not so much to prevent growth and creativity. Respect the power of rituals. Value both inward and outward knowledge. Keep technology around to do what makes people miserable. Use resources responsibly. Don’t worry much about luxuries until everybody’s needs are met. Realize that beauty is productive. Teach by doing. Discourage competitive materialism. Encourage diversification of strengths. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

You know you’re intrigued.

I just wish the book gave more suggestions for how society moves toward even an imperfect utopia. (Yes, yes, seeming paradox, I know. But utopia’s not a final state; it’s a way of moving.) With all the dissatisfied radicals I know are out there, are we all stuck in some Field of Dreams waiting period? Dude, somebody’s got to start building. The conservative Christians already realize this. Enough with criticizing, let’s get to creating.

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I’m flying to California for some much-needed vacation time, seated next to a window, with a rather large man solidly planted into the aisle seat two spaces away. Just prior to take-off, an attendant uproots and transplants him a row behind me, but before I can revel in the joy of having an entire three-seat row to myself, a couple approaches to silence my celebration: first, a man on whom I had my eye at boarding—tanned and dark-eyed, with a face sexily-reminiscent of Adam Levine’s, down to a distinct jaw that, like magic, would drop to reveal a dentist-approved smile—accompanied by, second, a woman shorter, plumper, and more dowdily-dressed than my row’s previous resident stump. She is large enough that I wonder if she has purchased two seats for herself, large enough that when I typed “way” in the first line of this entry, I subconsciously typed “weigh.”

The couple takes their seats next to me. (She sits in the middle, of course, right next to me.) When I notice their wedding bands, I wonder what many people who see them together probably ask themselves: what is he doing with her?

She opens her Wal-Mart paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, smushing next to him in such a way that I can’t tell whether she’s desperately trying to avoid brushing arms with me or, as I would like to believe, desperately squeezing every moment of affection she can possibly get with someone as good-looking as her companion while her opportunity lasts. She breathes heavily after lifting her arm to her eyes and re-tilting her glasses.

I check myself: why am I so alarmed by this peculiar picture of romance? I look at them, and I think: shouldn’t I be happy that love can be blind to such extreme differences in size and appearance? As someone concerned about holding high standards for The One, I should be ecstatic that there is the possibility of a Prince Charming even for those among us who may more closely resemble Shrek.

Okay: yes—pause. My quips may find me in trouble with karma after I post this. I’m not trying to be malicious; I’m playing Simon Cowell, saying what others may be thinking but don’t have the heart enough to say out loud. And if my desire for true love is for it to be intensely honest, then why pollute my own exploration and reflections of it with white lies?

I am glued to a personal theory connecting interpersonal attraction with the physical. While sexual racism has played and continues to play a large significant part of my journey through the dating world, my size and shape has taunted me as well. At 18, I was shopping for clothes at L or XL carts; in the months before I turned 21, I was more than forty-pounds lighter, wearing a shirt I could proudly say was from the cart marked S, even considering ones from the XS section. Because my high school was diversely-populated and nurtured multiculturalism and tolerance, I never attribute my lack of dating success to issues of race or ethnicity; instead, I blamed my weight.

I never did anything, though, to proactively change. It wasn’t until a strenuous summer working in the Berkshires that my weight began to, somehow, disappear. Only after I noticed that ten pounds had suddenly gone did I begin to purposefully keep up my weight loss “work,” complementing my meals with salads and entertaining the option of actually going to the gym. At the same time, I landed my first ever set of dates with Vince, who was—of all people—a frat boy from my college. It was the first time anyone had paid attention to me romantically, and I was surprised that I could rein in a guy from such a different—and perhaps more valued—social circle; I immediately attributed my newly-found success to my weight loss.

Although it seemed as if the doors to dating were slowly and finally opening for me, my former physique haunted me. The very first time I had my shirt off with Vince, he shocked me by saying, quite out of nowhere: “You’re a big guy.” Unfortunately, he was talking about my waistline rather than anything below it.

For the most part, I have since kept myself in a comfortable range between 157 and 162 pounds. The presence of my love handles (or preferably, the lack thereof) has always been the most variable aspect of my body, but despite my discernable hips, I haven’t inched towards the 200 pound mark in years.

This, then, is what frightens me: in the last eight weeks, thanks to a job that has paid for three meals daily throughout the summer, I have gained ten pounds that I am now very consciously trying to shed. I don’t want to return to who I was when I was eighteen: overweight and dateless. And while I understand that, theoretically, there’s a lot more to me than what people who might evaluate me as a date might see, my history has demonstrated otherwise.

Back on the plane, the woman rests her Palm Pilot on her companion’s thigh and folds down the tiny table in front of him. The attendant hands them their respective complimentary beverages, and the woman places both drinks on her companion’s table. Although her body may plead for more space of its own, she finds her comfort in the crampedness of their shared space, and I think I’m just jealous that my table, for now, fits only a party of one.

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Bil Browning joins us today from The Bilerico Project:

I think by now most of our readers realize I’m not the biggest fan of Hillary Clinton. Do I think she’ll end up the democratic candidate? Yeah. Will I support her if she does? Hell yeah. But am I excited about the possibility of Hillary as Prez? Let’s just say I’m about as excited over the idea as I was over a Kerry presidency – better than what we have but not particularly exciting.

I have to admit, however, that some of the sexism that has been directed Hillary’s way is really starting to piss me off. You don’t have to look very far to find blatant examples - check just about any mass media story. In fact, you know things are going a little too far when even the wingnuts are starting to tire of the same sexist drivel.

As an example, check out what the Indiana Family Institute's blog has to say on the subject. The far-right organization, known for their parent's orgs sexism, homophobia and racism (the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified the American Family Association a "hate group" similar to the KKK or other "white power" groups), is hardly a bastion of liberal thought and yet while they work in the obligatory pokes at the left, you can read for yourself that they're quickly wearying of the FOX "News" talking points.

"Personally, I am a little tired of discussing Hillary Clinton's femininity. It's unfair to her and it's the least important topic of the Presidential campaign. It's time we stop discussing:

  • Pantsuits: What else is she going to wear? If I were a woman, I wouldn't want to be campaigning in high heels and a tight dress.
  • Women's Issues: Just because Hillary is a woman doesn't mean she needs to talk endlessly about "women's issues." She's running for President of the United States, not of the women's auxiliary to the country club.
  • Her husband: I don't agree with her much, but she's intelligent enough on her own. I've always thought that she actually may be MORE intelligent than former President Clinton. Again, I don't agree with Sen. Clinton much, but she's likely to be a major contender for leader of the free world. Isn't it about time we stop acting like the only thing that defines her is that she is a woman?"

So when will we see the articles on what brand of suit Mitt Romney is wearing or what type of shoes Bill Richardson favors? So far, the closest contender is John "Do these sweaters make me look gay?" McCain and the media didn't raise that issue - the candidate did!

So let's enjoy a moment to imagine... *cue the dreamy music* Let's critique the men for a second - hair, makeup, clothes, it's all up for grabs. Let's try and make our comments look like how the media is currently describing Hillary's every move, shall we? Any takers?

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I’ve wanted to write a post about the big H.P., but I haven’t been able to think of something I could write about cohesively. For a little while I wanted to talk about the few (but horrifyingly obvious) sexual innuendos in the movie (Ron: “So what was it like?” … Harry: “Kind of…wet.” Delay. “…Because she was crying”). Then I wanted so badly to talk about how I finished the last installment overnight and which parts I loved most, but nothing really seemed to resonate particularly with the theme of this blog community. Then, after a few conversations with queer people, it hit me:

Harry, where are the GAYS? Now I realize this is kind of a modern dilemma whether it’s appropriate to create gay characters into major media that reaches children. Even if J. K. Rowling wanted to introduce a gay character, could she have?

If you devote enough ink to craftily introduce a gay character in a children’s series (and it would be a lot of ink – you’d have to do it carefully, sensitively, and you’d have to take on the role of educator much more than as if you’re taking about heterosexual teen dating), how can you talk about gay kids without prompting a magnifying glass on the character’s (the child’s) sexuality? Is it appropriate to suggest we could/should do this to children? And despite the problems of assuming heterosexuality for all children, it may create a bit of a window for gay kids to work out their identity internally before “choosing” sexuality. So, sorting through all these confused thoughts: As much as I would like a gay wizard at Hogwarts, I’m confused about how it should be delivered. Maybe it’s just because it’s never really been done before.

The other question I have about presenting gay characters in children’s stories is this: how do you actually, noticeably, present a gay character? It’s something the gay community has wrestled with for a while. If you made the gay male gender variant (read: gay), then you’re isolating gays who aren’t effeminate. But if you don’t make them effeminate (Brokeback-style), then you risk only making gay okay when it’s not overtly gay. And IF they’re not gender variant, then do you make them talk about their sexuality? Do you make them actively hunt other gay men? So many questions, with answers I don’t have.

But this is not to say that I’m letting Rowling off the hook. I believe she has done a very good job of creating, for the first time in popular children’s literature, a series that focuses intently on issues of mass media and exposure of identity. That said, couldn’t she have taken a little more responsibility? Ignoring the fact that Hermione, despite her smarts, is helplessly tiny and cries all the time (a gust of wind could knock that girl over); ignoring that it’s Harry’s mother, and not his father, who protected him with the obnoxiously feminized “power of love”; ignoring that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley (despite their charm) represent (and promote) the stereotypical, lower-class system of rigid gender roles; and ignoring that the highest ranking women officials always hit a glass ceiling (McGonagall, Umbridge) …why couldn’t she have appeased us all a little and thrown in a character with either a little gender variance or status as a sexual minority?

Possibly the most aggravating part of this all is that Rowling does, in fact, allude to gayness at least once in the series:

'I heard you last night,' said Dudley breathlessly. Talking in your sleep. Moaning.'

'What d'you mean?' Harry said again, but there was a cold, plunging sensation in his stomach. He had revisited the graveyard last night in his dreams.

Dudley gave a harsh bark of laughter, then adopted a high-pitched whimpering voice.

'"Don't kill Cedric! Don't kill Cedric!" Who's Cedric - your boyfriend?'

(Harry and Dudley, Book V)

So Rowling is willing to admit that gayness exists, and that it’s something that can be used as a tool for bullying – so, uh, in my book I think that means she created for herself the responsibility of playing the balancing act: if you mention gayness in such a light, you need to discuss at some point when talking about gayness is appropriate. Particularly relevant to the final book, in which Rowling suggests that identities are anything but static, and that people can change dramatically over time as they face the truth about the world and about themselves. That, and isn’t England supposed to be more queer-friendly? If this is the case, now I’m even more worried that Harry Potter’s lack of gay characters was purposeful.

So now that Rowling is charged with the task of writing Mary Potter: The Boi Who Lived (Fabulously), I leave her with a quote from wise Dumbledore:

'You fail to recognise Cornelius, that it matters not what someone is born,
but what they grow up to be!'

(Dumbledore, Book IV)

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Dear Fannie,

I’m a 25 year old lesbian and I’ve been in a relationship with a coworker of mine for over a year now. The major issue at hand is her ex-girlfriend. What’s even worse is that they’re roommates. They were living together as a couple and then broke up, but never moved out! Now, I fully acknowledge that I have a jealous streak. Maybe I’m paranoid, maybe I’m territorial. But I feel like my girlfriend and her ex spend way too much time together. They have weekend trips together, go shopping, eat out, go to the movies… all things that I would like to do with my girlfriend. Even worse, she’ll frequently ditch me to hang out with her ex, even after we’ve made plans far ahead in time. We’ve broken up a few times over this, but she keeps on sweet talking me back in. I feel like I’m constantly being excluded, and not made a priority. I’m her girlfriend for crying out loud, where’s the love?


Frustrated, it’s pretty clear you have a bad case of excessive baggage. Now, I know this is one of the few times I’ve specifically addressed a lesbian relationship, and I’m really sorry it’s a situation as unfortunate as this. But love it or hate it, lesbians have a bad rep for not only rushing into relationships, but also arriving with Uhauls of emotional baggage. In your case it sounds like your girlfriend never really brought any baggage to you, more that you’ve been brought to her palace of emotional manipulation. (Please note: I no way intend to connote that women exclusively are emotionally manipulative. Men are plenty good at it too).

First off, it’s reasonable and necessary that your girlfriend have friends outside your relationship. It’s completely unreasonable to think that you and you girlfriend can provide for all of each other’s emotional, physical, social, psychological, and sexual needs. That’s what friends (and open relationships [a.k.a. functional relationships]) are for. And it’s commendable that your girlfriend is still good friends with her ex. It shows how she has the potential of being emotionally mature and can adapt emotionally and socially to changing situations. However, while she may not be “cheating” on you with her ex, she’s definitely leaving you in their emotional dust as they speed away into their “platonic” sunset. I hate to break it to you, Frustrated, but it sounds like you’re girlfriend is trying to have her cake, and eat it too.

It’s not paranoid of you to be wary of her relationship with her ex. If they were just friends, I’d tell you to get over yourself. But she has had a previous sexual and romantic relationship with this woman. You are completely within your rights to demand that some boundaries be set. If she’s going to be your main romantic partner, she should make the effort to show you that you’re a priority in that department. If she can’t even muster the energy to put you before her ex-girlfriend, DTMFA (thank you Dan Savage).

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Rating (out of five): ΔΔΔΔΔ

A rare event has occurred in the area of gender studies, and that event is the publication of The Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman On Sexism and The Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano. Not often do readers have the luxury of reading a thorough, fairly objective yet personal appraisal of misogyny from a transsexual woman. In this segment I simultaneously present a review of The Whipping Girl while tying what Serano writes into some of my personal experiences with gender.

Julia Serano’s book courageously presents situations in which femininity is treated with sincere disdain. The Whipping Girl’s main focus is to show how transgender phobia is not based on dislike of persons who are transgender solely for those persons being transgender. Rather, transphobia is described as being based on the hatred of femininity. What is most striking in the book is how Serrano sheds light the ways in which femininity, in particular, is frowned upon within the queer community and explores how masculinity is often most applauded. When femininity is accepted in the queer community it is within the drag show setting where femininity becomes a show, an act to please an audience. Serrano repeatedly illustrates how society as a whole carries the perception that femininity is a farce created to please those who witness it.

To make this a little more personal, in my late teens I transitioned from female-to-male (FTM), and I identified somewhere between being a gay and bisexual male. To fully embody living as a male I underwent a series of physical alterations such as two years of testosterone hormone therapy and several surgeries that ultimately gave me a masculine appearance. But after two years of transition I began to have an experience similar to what Serrano herself describes in her book as going through. That experience being that my subconscious sex was misaligned with my physical body. In my early 20s, I decided to de-transition and live as a woman again because I came to realization that my subconscious sex is female, much like Serano.

Serrano’s explanation of the concept of “subconscious sex” is an eloquent description of what many transgender people experience. Subconscious sex as described in Whipping Girl is the mental understanding of what one’s sex is regardless of what sex the physical body is. Many people are born with their physical sex and subconscious sex aligned but transgender people often times have subconscious and physical sexes at odds with each other.

The concept of “subconscious sex” that Serano touches on not only correlates with a lot of transgender people but also with non-transgender people, or cissexual people, as Serano states. For instance, one can examine cases where non-trans women who have had masectomies feel the strong desire to have breast implants because they feel incomplete without breasts. The concept of subconscious sex could be part of an explanation for that desire. Serano also discusses the effect large amounts of testosterone has on someone whose subconscious sex is female and goes as far as using the term “testosterone poisoning”. Cissexual women also experience similar effects when misusing androgens to develop muscle mass.

While there is minimal mention of the problematic fetishization of masculinity and dislike of femininity in the queer community there has been little to no recognition of this phenomenon in the realm of gender studies. The Whipping Girl dissects the sexualizing of female-to-male transsexuals within the lesbian community and briefly discusses the misogyny within the gay male community as well. When I was transitioning from female-to-male, many people in the queer community not only treated me with more respect (I felt empowered) but I was also pursued sexually and in some ways treated like some kind of sexual force. This was vastly different from when I was a female lesbian in the queer community; while I was well-liked, I was rarely sexually pursued and not given nearly as much authority or respect as when I transitioned to male. And now that I am living as a woman again I experience the same shift of treatment where I feel less valued, less powerful, less attractive.

And, of course, the funniest part of this situation is that within the straight world that I now technically identify with… I am told I am too masculine. Serano writes in great detail on heterosexual attitudes about gender and how women are expected to be feminine and men masculine. From reading her book it is clear that there is still much misogyny in heterosexual society, even with feminist movements. Serano talks about how feminist gender deconstructionist theory considers femininity to be a social construct and how transsexual womens’ experiences contradict gender deconstruction theory. She berates those gender theorists who take transgendered experiences and maim those experiences to prove the theory du jour.

To sum this all up, The Whipping Girl is a meaningful read. Do I recommend it? Without a doubt. This book is an unsinkable ship in the turbulent sea of gender theories.

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+ news +

The IRS and sex,
the APA and ex-gays,
and D.C.'s first ever TAM! for the week.

Bookmonkey, our newest contributor, joins us on Tuesday as BTB's official book reviewer. Stay tuned for her engaging review of Julia Serrano's Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity.

Also of note: a) the new comment/trackback system, and b) as a result of installing this system, all old comments have been erased. Hooray for toughstuff's technical skills! The comment business should be pretty self-explanatory, but trackbacks are rather cool: contributors and commenting individuals may alert me to posts on other blogs that relate to a particular post of ours. This way, under "Trackback", readers can easily find other posts out there in the greater blogosphere they might be interested in.


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In the heat of summer you get lightheaded, you get sweaty, and you get sapped of all your energy. Under certain circumstances, primarily in the sexual arena, these are the exact sensations you want to have. But when all you’re doing in this hot weather is sitting around bored as fuck and you catch yourself in the shame of watching Tyra Banks tell you about eating disorders, those same feelings quickly turn to frustration. And when I realize I’m sitting on my swamp ass considering submitting myself to a live taping of the Tyra Show in exchange for an hour in an air conditioned studio, I strip off all my clothes, jump in the shower, beat off in a mind-altering frenzy, and then crash face first into bed. And maybe beat off a couple more times. On Tyra’s Oprah-channeling fat ass.

Waking up an hour later, I peer through the sleep haze and cough up a hairball. The damn cats have shed all over the place. The animals have it right. During those hot summer months, they have the ability to shed off their burdensome layers and leave it all behind on someone else’s shit. See, recent personal events have proved to be much like this nagging heat (Oh, the drama of human existence.) and all I want is for people to have the wherewithal to shed their own suffocating burdens to escape unnecessary frustrations. To most of us, “shed” is a place to keep an ever-growing pile of shit we don’t want to deal with, such as issues, belt sanders, and children.

So, let’s take a look at some shedding or “shed-ing” around the amazing planet we call Earth before it all goes up in a puff of smoke.

The courts burned a 16-year-old UK girl recently over wearing a ring at school. Wearing jewelry is a direct violation of the school dress code. The girl, Lydia Playfoot (footplay, whatever, this is what you get when you’re British.) claimed that the ring was a “religious artifact” and for the school to deny the right to wear it was a discriminatory act. Unfortunately for her, they decided that her trinket wasn’t an integral part of her faith and as a result she is no longer allowed to wear it. Her chastity ring is no more. Right? Chastity ring. The girl went to court to fight for a chastity ring. Well, guess the floozy is going to be uncontrollably flinging her legs up in the air in a classroom near you, shedding her virginity into the wind one emission at a time. The fairy tale never told.

Stateside, another delusional woman has struck as well. DeeDee (and that is what you get when you’re American) has claimed that the funeral home that processed her husband’s body cheated her out of his ashes and she lives in constant fear that the ashes are not her late husband’s remains. When someone passes, aren’t they supposed to rest in peace? Isn’t that the point? Fine, maybe that could be a justifiable complaint. However, the widow goes on to sue for the value of her husband’s prosthetic leg. Now we are reaching some uncharted territory. Who, in their right mind, with the need to discover the true carbon of her dearly beloved would also just throw in the value of a $7000 leg just for good measure in her lawsuit? Surely, your intentions are a tad off. I mean, this is a joke right? You’re totally pulling my leg, Dee. Stop it. Just let go. (I know. Too, too easy.)

On a lighter note, Egypt is officially banning female circumcision. Someone has managed to do the right thing. Shedding an old tradition mired in crazyland that sheds lives (clitoris, ability to bear children, and normal sex life included). Thank fucking Christ.

In the end, perhaps people in the hottest places of all have evolved past the need to cling to nonsensical crap and move the fuck on. Think on that, motherfuckers. Forget it. It’s not worth it. Move it along.

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Dear Fannie,

I am a 23 year old lesbian who occasionally sleeps with men. While the queer world usually understands and accepts this, I find it difficult around my heterosexual friends. They like to label me as "bisexual" or "bicurious" when that is not the case at all. Why does everyone in the free world feel the need to put me under some sort of label?

Queer and Proud

As talkingtranny addressed in her earlier post, labels make us feel safe. They offer us a little bit of space that we can call our own. They help us form connections with people like ourselves. They help us create communities and safe spaces. They allow us to form identities to rally around. Labels do a lot of good things, but there are also downsides to this culture of rigid identities.

When one defines identities it often becomes imperative to define what doest not fit in this identity. This process of de-identification is what leads to a lot of needless squabbling over who deserves entry into the assorted identities out there. I find it interesting that there seems to be an over enthusiastic interest on the part of straight people in the sex lives of queer people. The ever so politically correct terminology of LGBT seems so clinical. It seems quite odd that we feel a need to develop specific labels and completely seperate identities to describe a man-who-sleeps-with-men, and a woman-who-sleeps-with-women, and a man-or-woman-who-sleeps-with-men-or-women, and a woman-who-used-to-be-a-man or a man-who-used-to-be-a-woman… *whew* that’s exhausting! I personally prefer queer to the acronym, which I think speaks to how society requires non-straight sexualities to be categorized, classified, and studied because we’re oh so strange and dangerous. Hide your children!

And in your case Q&P, despite self-identifying as a lesbian, the fact that so much attention has been directed at the few men in your sexual history speaks to a deeper issue. Queer people, for some reason, have to “prove” their sexuality through empirical evidence. We are asked to divulge our entire sexual histories, fantasies, dreams, aspirations, experiences in order to be correctly cataloged into our proper label. But, we don’t seem to have the same kind of interest in straight sexuality. This kind of discourse implies that straight sexuality is somehow ordinary, uniform, and the status quo. Now, I’ve read enough of Savage Love to know that there are PLENTY of kinky straight folk out there. And that’s the thing… sexuality isn’t limited to what gender or sex your partner is. There are so many axes on which sexuality is influenced: age, race, ethnicity, language, body shape, height, personality, socio-economic class, etc.

It’s not enough to think of sexuality as a spectrum, with a b-line from straight to gay. There are an infinite number of variable axes that run through sexuality it offers an infinite selection of sexualities. So, Q&P, I hope that answers your question about why people keep trying to peg you down like a butterfly pinned in a museum display. But I also don’t think you should be afraid of labels. They can be very powerful, invigorating, and empowering. It’s important to embody the mindset that labels of course help define us, but aren’t the be-all end-all. So saying you’re a lesbian that occasionally sleeps with men isn’t so much of an oxymoron anymore.

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If you can get your hands on it, read Julia A. Greenberg’s article “Defining Male and Female: Intersexuality and the Collision Between Law and Biology,” published in the 1999 Arizona Law Review. (Try a public or academic library with access to Lexis-Nexis.) This applies some complex perspectives on gender—held by pomos, feminists, anthropologists, biologists, etc.—to our legal system. Foucault and the others certainly were clever at times. In Greenberg’s law review article and in court cases across the world, we see discourse and control intertwined; it becomes not just socially but legally mandated to define identities and even to shape bodies to support these ways of talking and perceiving the world. A rigidly policed gender binary is necessary in order to sustain heterosexism (and, arguably, sexism).

I did a lot of reading for this blog and was going to reference many an article and news case. I find, instead, that I feel like ranting.

Most states in the USA have some method of changing one’s legal sex (whether by revising or replacing birth certificates). But throughout the country, and definitely across the globe, these methods vary. Is the petitioner’s identity claim enough? Does it take a letter from a psychologist? A physician? Both? Must a supporting letter diagnose gender identity dysphoria? Intersexuality? Is prior treatment required—hormonal, therapeutic, surgical? How much treatment?

On, and on, and on, it goes. And I can’t help but think: we can change our hair, nail, eye color at will; darken pale skin with chemicals or sun damage; eat and laze ourselves into life-threatening obesity; staple our stomachs into submission and liposuction the fat out of ourselves; augment or reduce breasts for aesthetics or health or self-confidence; pierce nearly anything (and gauge those piercings); enlarge a penis with chemicals, gadgets or surgery…but add something like a penis or breasts where they’re not expected, and suddenly the matter moves from a decision between either you and you, or you and your doctor…to one between you and the government.

It especially matters to the government if you want possession of a penis to entitle you to being treated like everybody else with a penis. Because you already recognize that what’s in your pants is not just of private significance, but also strangely important to government/society and pivotal in their regulation of your relationships. If you want, say, to bring your Mexican wife into the country, you’d better be able to prove you have a legitimate marriage, which usually means you’d better prove your maleness, which usually means prove you have a penis. And, in case you’re wondering at my failure to mention snatch: at birth, we’re sorted into 1) those who have a penis, and 2) those who do not have a penis (or, in some cases, have too small a penis to count). That’s right, feminists. Women are still defined by their lack, from the get-go. And courts are inclined to look at it as “but you don’t have a penis!” or “what’d you do with your penis?!” or, more quietly, “well, you do have a penis….”

But let’s get back to the general concepts of body modification. A state-recognized woman can change her breasts at will. A state-recognized man can (try to) change his penis. In cases of intersexuality, surgery is often expected in order to move someone more in line with an idealized male or female body form. This is because we realize there are plenty of recognized “dudes” who are overweight and have breasts, plenty of women with mustaches and flat chests and slim hips, and so on. And we want you to be able to (spend your money to) correct these unfortunate physical inadequacies and further polarize yourself. But don’t ask to move across the sex lines, and definitely don’t ask to straddle both sides of the line, or to live on a different plane entirely. Our culture will continuously ignore intersexuality and the fact that the bajillion factors in so-called straightforward biological sex do not always align in this binary fabrication we call male/female. (did you see what I did there? Straightforward. Ha.) There are testes with tatas, XY with a side dose of extra X, and many other variations in the human form (including the much-feared Clitorises of Unusual Size). But hey, why question the binary sex system and its associated stereotypes, when we can just call out these individuals with “abnormal” genotypes and phenotypes, these “freaks of nature”?

Well, excuse me, darlings, but maybe an unadjusted body is as friggin’ “natural” as it gets, and we should get over this socially constructed discursive and medical regulation of our bodies and recognize evidence of life outside the binary.

Some food for more academic thought:
DOJ - Recognizing Sex Change to Allow Immigration by Marriage
What’s up in Egypt
Miss Spain rules to allow transsexuals and mothers
HRW: Resource Library for International Jurisprudence on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Spanish Government to approve transsexual rights law
Legal aspects of transsexualism (Wikipedia)
An identity under scrutiny in Palestine (Human Rights Watch, 21-6-2007)
Gender Recognition Act 2004 (Wikipedia)

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The last time I saw Tony, we had just seen Volver before erupting into a tense, tearful conversation that eventually led to our break up. I remember getting out of his Acura, parked underneath a lamppost at my apartment complex's lot, and trying to walk across the road and into my apartment without letting any neighbors see that anything was wrong. I closed the door, sat in the darkness of my living room, and cried.

We had planned on remaining friends after that conversation in March, but with work, life, and emotions in the way, I both purposefully and accidentally let time slide. I avoided him because I wanted to get over everything, to not get frustrated with his childish antics anymore, to force myself to move on. I wanted to be friends, but couldn't get myself there.

July 2nd was the first time I had seen him in more than three months. He invited me to see him in Sweeney Todd, and despite my own hesitation, I decided that I really should do this for him and for me, especially because he had planned on moving soon.

I waited to see him after the show. I pictured how great the moment could be: he'd walk out the dressing rooms and see me across the lobby. I'd smile. He'd smile. He'd walk over, and we'd embrace just like old times, and I'd tell him how fantastic he was in the show.

But when I saw him, my facial muscles froze, and my intended smile became more of a smirk. As I tried to recreate the emotions I wanted to display, he came in my direction, hugged his other friend first, and then hugged me. Instead of the great moment I envisioned, I could only squeak out a tiny, whispered, far-from-full-voice "That was good." Although I had planned on asking him out to dinner after the show, he intercepted the request, asking his friend and I where we wanted to eat. I found myself stammering; my voice was low and mumbly. My heart pounded, and I worried that he might have felt the nerves when I hugged him.

He broke the ice, and we raced a bit on the way to dinner. He waved in his three-year-old playful way from his car to my car; I laughed. His goofiness was both a curse and a blessing; while it took things too far too often, it balanced my serious side well.

Our dinner conversation was great: smooth, fluid, far from the earlier awkwardness. But I was craving one-on-one time, so I asked him if he wanted to get coffee (despite the fact that I don't drink coffee). He took me up on the offer, which I was glad about. I was always most comfortable around Tony when we were alone. Even when I was with my friends, my time with him would never be the same as when we'd sit on my living room couch reading a play or lay in bed talking about absolutely nothing.

He dropped his friend off and came back to my apartment to pick me up. It reminded me of our first real date, still, I assert, the best date I have ever been on.

We went to the coffeehouse we frequented when we would have mornings free, and we talked about his big change of plans-- his move to California, attempts to get a job-- and the usual: movies, theater, and dreams. I tried probing for information about his current love life, but he wouldn't budge. He knows, though, that I'm not stupid. He probably knows that I’ve seen his G-chat comments about "Mike" for the past several weeks, that I've seen how Mike has become his #1 on MySpace, that I've lost my place in his top 20, that he left sentimental John Mayer quotes on Mike's message wall, that part of this big move to California was so that he could be there with him. I knew that I had been replaced and tried to make my replacement official by getting him to say it, but no, he wouldn't budge. Instead, I duped myself into believing that maybe if I talked him up enough, that if I paid enough personal attention, that if I made myself look and smell and sound the best I could, that maybe at the end of the night, I could get a kiss from him. Because everything else felt the same: his car, his voice, our banter, and when we hugged, I felt the same perfect fit of comfort I recall when we dated-- warm, with my cheek pressed against his fuzzy head of hair.

It didn't happen of course. I, stupidly, mentioned the time, and he decided it was time to take me back to my apartment. We pledged, as always, to hang out again.

Part of me worries that I’m clinging to a chance that we might rekindle whatever we had. Despite my frustrations with our personality differences, we had something. I still feel something. I don't like it, but it's there. I'm probably 60-70% over him, but only because I have to move forward. More than anyone I've ever dated, I think I miss him the most. I'm going to end up comparing the next set of guys to him. And I hate that because we weren't perfect. We weren't meant to be. And despite the logic and critical thought that told me that we couldn't stick together, our chemistry, like a drug, keeps me chained to what if? And that-- that's not an addiction easy to break.

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More guest writers to join in the very near future!!

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Living in boxes

I'm not talking about the kind of box I have between my thighs. I'm talking about boxes like gay or straight, femme or female. I'm talking about the kinds of boxes that encase our entire identity. I'm speaking of the boxes that are clearly labeled.

There's something appealing about having a very clearly defined sense of self. Once you're in a clearly labeled box, you can stack nicely with other boxes of the same label, that grants us a sense of belonging. You can be just one of the guys. You can be just one of the boxes.

Of course, all the other boxes are always trying to push their way to the center of the pile. They do this by telling you that you don't belong. It's a given that once you're stacked with the other boxes, you're going to have to defend your right to belong.

If you ever have seen a straight man being called gay by his friends, then you have probably seen a man defending his box. Men are always defending their heterosexual box. They drive big manly trucks, get angry, and push away sensitivity because it seems like it shouldn't fit in the heterosexual male box. It's really quite silly.

And yet, we see gays and lesbians defending their own boxes. A woman may decide to brush off a man because she identifies as a lesbian. Never mind that she may be attracted to this man. Getting in bed with a man wouldn't be a very lesbian thing to do, would it? So she plays it safe. She stays in her box. She doesn't test her boundaries. She'll spend so much time defending her box that she will never crawl outside of it.

This is when I start to hate boxes. I see them as a collection of walls. They don't just limit our current existence; they limit our ability to grow. Can you honestly say that you would like to go the rest of your life without ever growing as a person and redefining who you are? What if ten years ago you had decided never to grow or change again? I imagine your life wouldn't be as fulfilled as it could be.

As I transitioned from male to female, there were so many people both within the transgender community and without telling me how to be myself. I would hear comments on the way I walked. They would suggest how to make it more male or female, whichever label I was identifying with at the time.I had to shrug it all off. At some point I was forced to say to myself that I didn’t transition to be a man or a woman. I didn’t transition to find a more comfortable closet. I transitioned to be me.

Everyone should take time once in a while to just figure out what their boxes are, and abandon them. Tear down their walls. Give yourself more freedom. Being attracted to someone should never threaten your sense of self. If it does, then your sense of self is too clearly defined.

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The Inquisitor interviews Wienerdog!

Q: How do you identify sexually?
A: I identify as a heterosexual woman.

Q: How has your perception of your sexuality changed over the past five years?
A: It has definitely changed a lot. I didn’t really question my sexuality before college but I did while in college quite a bit. My questioning was not just about myself but about others, too.

I used to stress about my sexual identity and it was a challenge to reconcile the things that were confusing like certain feelings that don’t fit in a box.

Q: What do you think changed? Why did it go from anxiety provoking to not anxiety provoking?
A: When I was in college I didn’t have that many things that were anxiety provoking so my self was the whole thing. It’s still about me, but there are so many more things – like my career and other dreams….pie in the sky dreams that seemed would inevitably come to fruition don’t see that way anymore, so those things have sort of taken precedence over sexual identity and similar quandries.

Q: Are you in a relationship?
A: Yes.

Q: How would you characterize the roles that you and your boyfriend play within the bounds of your relationship?:
A : Pretty traditional: the male/female patriarchy sort (lol). They must be traditional because I don’t think about our gender roles.

I’ve gotten older and have more friends in relationships I notice a difference between myself and their heterosexual relationships. They have programmed needs to do certain things – get married, have children, etc. I don’t feel pressure to do any of these things…I just don’t feel like they’re part of my life right now. It freaks me out when I see my friends who do have this inclination. I still feel like a little girl compared to them; I’m still grappling with my adult-woman-life and all that that entails.

Q: How do you feel the fairly traditional gender roles that you and your boyfriend play affect your relationship?

I’m still young enough that sex isn’t about procreation for me, so I don’t feel any of these gender roles.

Even when I questioned my sexuality, I didn’t question my gender role. Even in brief same sex experiments with women, I still had the same gender role. I don’t know if that’s because I wasn’t gay, or why it was. Even when I was questioning my sexuality a lot, I never desired to play the male role, I preferred to be in the female role, to be pursued. As I think back about those relationships [same sex relationships] I was the more “girly” one, I wasn’t the aggressor. f your post.

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Dear Fannie,

I'm a 21 year old gay Asian male living in a big ol' gay city. I normally have (or like to think that I have) a decent moral compass and do not play with or lead guys on. My problem is that whenever my self esteem dips down into the negatives, I reach out for the easiest of all GAM pacifiers - rice queens. I know that I'm leading them on, but without their attention (both in public and in the bedroom), I would've crashed and burned months if not years ago. I guess my question is whether I should feel this guilt. I know that they could also be playing up their role to get as much Asian ass as they desire... Am I a bad person?

Eagerly Awaiting Solutions (from) You

In light of manontheside and toughstuff's recent posts about sexual racism in the queer community, I'm really glad you sent me this question, EASY. So here I go, jumping on the rice queen bandwagon… Let's be perfectly clear: Sexual racism is real; especially so in the queer community. GAMs (gay Asian men for those of you out of the lingo) routinely are shoved to the bottom of a racialized sexual hierarchy, positioning (surprise, surprise) white men on top.

Just from my own experience and talking about attraction with friends, it's very interesting to see the ways that which nonwhites get compartmentalized. Asian men get written off because all of us obviously have small cocks, an incessant need to please, and essentially feminine/infantile (read: asexual). Black men often get the other side of the coin, being cast as paragons of male sexuality: huge cocks, hyper-masculine, and unhinged, wild (read: savage/primitive) sexuality. But in that same respect black men often complain about being only seen as sexual beings, and non-intellectual. White guys, conveniently get love for their looks and their shining personalities.

Obviously there are problems with this discourse. A) It homogenizes entire classes of people, B) Its overwhelmingly totalizing (thanks for trying second-wave feminism, thanks…), and C) it just sucks.

And then came the rice queen. The seeming savior of gay Asian men, everywhere, the rice queen offers us exclusive attention. No more competing with our superiors on the sexual hierarchy. No more rejection for our yellow skin and almond eyes. Instead we are desired, prized, worshipped even. Sounds like a great deal, eh? But like most "great deals" it's important to read the fine print.

Manontheside went through the bulk of the catch-22's with many rice queens: assumptions about small cock size, proclivity for bottoming, naivety (read: power imbalance), language skill (poor English/strong mother tongue, not English), an over-enthusiastic interest in Asian culture, the list goes on and on. But there is also a sense that rice queens aren't "real" men. A fetish for Asian men seems counter-intuitive. By choosing exclusively Asian men, they don’t enter the general gay economy, and therefore operate in an oft ignored niche market. It’s like comic book collectors. They are passionate about comic books and will pay large sums of money to get what they want; but… they’re kind of weird. [please note: I am by no means trashing on comic book geeks. I, in fact, am a gung ho comic book fan. BtVS Season 8 *squee!*]

So GAMs are faced with a paradox: sexual racism causes many men to exclude them from their sexual and romantic connections, and those men who do want to sleep with them stand the risk of being rice queens, negating any validity in the relationship that operates outside any kind of sexual fetish context.

EASY, it sounds like you've fallen into the rice queen paradox: Trapped between a racist and a fetishist. Here's my stance on the whole situation. Sexual racism is a reality that gay Asian men have to live with on a daily level (although it is definitely prevalent in other communities as well). Rice queens, on the other hand, have the luxury of being able to choose their desired partner, which is not always the case for gaysians. So, when you seek a rice queen for his attention, both public and intimate, no harm is being done… really. You get your rocks off and that ego boost that comes from being wanted. He gets his rocks off, satisfying his particular fetish for Asian guys. You only have to watch out for the seeds of a racist relationship.

One thing that’s easy to do in this kind of critique of rice queenism™ is to forget that rice queens are people too. There are plenty of guys who are “rice queens” in that they are attracted to and prefer Asian men. These are the good rice queens that treat each person they are with as people. It’s not oppressive to have preferences, as long as the door is open to other kinds of people. When rice queens go bad is when racist assumptions enter the fray that dehumanize and commoditize gaysians.

So, EASY, the long and the short of it is that you have to fight the power and deal with a lot of racist mofos in your search for partners. If indulging in a rice queen makes you feel invigorated, wanted, and alive… by all means, go for it! And you never know, you may actually find someone who you want sticking around.

Send your questions to

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In light of manontheside’s recent post on racial fetishization, I though I might chime in a little. I recently read David Eng’s Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America, and while for the most part it was a review of everything I’ve already heard on the topic, the introduction was really interesting – the author provided a brief review of Fruedian fetishist theory to introduce the topic in a way I hadn’t heard before. So, in summary:

• Fetishes are sexual fixations that deviate from normative sexual behavior, and the subjects “are both inanimate and commonly considered non-sexual to an authoritative group in a society”

• Clinical psychologists typically diagnose sexual fetishism after six months of the above behavior, noting some kind of social dysfunction that results (anxiety, social displacement)

• “In the common English language, any degree of attention given to a singular inanimate object, body part, body feature or sexual behaviour may be said to be a sign of sexual fetishism. This use of the term is considered an overly compensatory gesture to the cognitive and emotional uncertainty caused by the liberation of sexual discourse, tastes and practices in the 20th century”

(thank you, Wikipedia)

For all the bad press fetishes have received over the years, doesn’t the above description of commonplace fetishism almost sound kind of normal? Perhaps an integral part of our socialization, perhaps the development of our sexuality, is founded upon fetish-like behaviors.

Now, I’m not saying that I support acceptance for cases of clinical fetishism that border on the extreme and are disruptive or damaging to the affected or the object. But the way I see fetishes described above, I can’t help but think that fetishes sound a lot like the product of the same socialized sexual behaviors we experience in the early stages of adolescence. I mean, how is it that we grow up and know how to have sex, as most understand it? We just turn 13 and realize that a penis going into a vagina is sex? Or we come out as lesbian or gay and then learn how to use strap-ons or perform anal sex, respectively (limited [and limiting] examples, I know, but bear with me)? I just don’t buy it. There’s a reason why we hear stories about guys who get off too quickly the first time they have sex with a woman – growing up, they dreamed about their first time for years; all those Playboys, porn from the internet, stories they hear from other guys. They were taught that putting their penis in a vagina is hot, empowering, infinitely pleasurable, and that it will turn them into a man – they are taught to harness their newly explosive sexual energy into an organized fixation around heterosexual, vaginal penetration. Sex isn’t natural; it’s a result of an accepted sexual fetishization.

So, if the above is true, then does that mean that most sexual practices we find attractive are the result of fixation? In many cases, “true love” is known as mutual fixation on each other. That’s nice. But what I’m interested in is how those of us develop our attraction. Rarely have I met sexual people that truly stand by their claim that “they’re open to dating most people”. Usually I meet people that adhere to a system of attraction that reflects western capitalist hierarchy. All gay men should know that the hottest guys are white and masculine, and the least favored are asian and flamers (black and latino men win points for being tough, but aren’t white, so often they hit a glass ceiling). Similarly, many heterosexual white women don’t realize that when guys “aren’t their type” they’re probably just not white or masculine either. Straight guys, of course, aren’t left out – thin women, white women, feminine women. We may be attracted to different things, but our systems of attraction, when analyzed, pretty clearly reflect a mindset created by the society they grew up in. There is of course room for deviation (we’re here for a reason!), but I speak of our society as a whole.

Then I guess the only way to deviate, or to escape how we were socialized growing up, is to fetishize. Maybe rice queens grow up learning to find many aspects of Asian/gaysian male culture extremely rewarding – among culturally rewarding factors, let’s talk sex: To deviate from society’s strong psychological push to infantilize Asian men, maybe some guys fetishize by race (and transform “the effeminate Asian man” from a repulsive concept to instead a perfect fit in a new, gendered sexual role that can fit like a glove – an exotic, submissive bottom) in order to get it up. Sad as that may be, I think it’s true in a lot of cases.

And I’m not escaping responsibility, here. Why do I typically find most attractive guys who are tall, scruffy, and white? Sounds pretty Brokeback to me – guess I fall into the trap of the western ideal. Is this okay, or is it racist? How much control do we have over our attraction? When do we reward our desires, and which behaviors should we suppress?

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Margie was a woman replete with contradictions. As is their (and so, her) nature, even these contradictions had contradictions. What contradicts a contradiction? certain aspects and appearances of coherence/cohesiveness.

One such contradiction: despite at times being dominated by some of the most demanding compulsions one could conjure, Margie could be described today, in a way that was summary but still almost wholly accurate, as lazier than a sack of potatoes.

Yet, this, as most of these contradictions, could be explained: she was not always like this and would not always remain like this.

Margie was by most measures a homebody. However, Margie did not approve of sedentary lives, and so, sought what few fleeting hints of an itinerant lifestyle could be obtained while wearing a bathrobe. One such attempt: Margie thought that having an advanced enough understanding of the world around her to allow her to take various types of drugs, inspiring in her various types of derangement, while maintaining some semblance of the equilibrium with which she lived her life would mean that she really didn’t need to leave the house—sort of having the world (with the drugged visions/moods as proxy) come to you instead. However, her theory was rarely substantiated in her life by successful experimentation with any but the most invariably pleasant drugs. The failures included numerous instances of her licking her teeth for extended periods of time, chewing on her gums or concluding that civilization was no more than a euphemism for bladder control. And so it often was that Margie often fell short of the image she had of herself.

If these descriptions seem like they do not describe all that much there is, once again, an available explanation: so deep was her contradictory nature that it was not enough to house presently contradicting principles, but, rather, there were just as many conflicts which took place over a time line. That is, Margie’s life was marked by successive changes which to the casual observer could seem equally explicable by some sort of jarring revelation about the proper path of a life as by some realization of something fatally flawed or unbearably repulsive in herself: she zigged and zagged (and in so doing defied general description). And for a long time the shifts found their respective explanations from a new theory or from some visceral rejection of an old one in about equal share.

One instance decidedly closer to the latter saw Margie decide that whisky when mixed with coffee, bananas, B12 and something apparently prescribed to amnesiacs for a brief time in the 50s would have curative properties. Some hours later she was asked to leave the cab that she had been directing to various spots in town that she suddenly thought would be inexplicably lit in the frozen, moonless night (though this garbled supposition of hers was instead taken by the cabbie as a greeting from what he thought to be a country near his home that he just couldn’t place) after it became clear that she had no money in what looked to be an all-camouflage outfit donned for reasons unclear. Fits and starts.

After a few such ill-fated instances of following ill-conceived impulses with almost nationalistic allegiance—one led her into a midnight canoe ride with a broken ore, others saw her violating municipal ordinances and customary standards of propriety by variously breaking and entering, falling asleep in foreign places, crashing cotillions, engaging in petty larceny almost for sport, and playing sports criminally (by, for example, going to golf courses after they close; she didn’t really play, as such the numerous putters she was found with were largely unnecessary), and the like—she started to become more of the homebody that she has previously been described as. This shift did not take place at the expense of her impulses but rather represented a sort of unwitting compromise: a trick she felt she had to start playing on herself. Though the procession of impulses that paraded through her typically announced themselves in the monosyllabic language of sudden certainty, that was not always the case. This was a mistake…I need to lay down…but I’m not tired…I wonder if I could climb that silo…is that a silo?…I want ice cream…You need to sleep more…an infinite expectation of the dawn…who said that?...I’m pooped…maybe just a little walk, there’s no shame in modestly regretted mistakes...there are no words

It was in the throes of one such inner compromise that she met Tic. Inexplicably he seemed to her to be in exactly the same state.

Tic was given to similar cyclical shifts but what she glimpsed that first night was different: he seemed to be muttering something to himself about “sad ecstasy”. While he was capable of almost Olympian indifference, the unconcern she saw was an act of sorts. However, it led her to believe that he was caught up in himself in a similar way to what she was experiencing. To be sure it was an act that he would have performed for himself had she not been there (in his experience it might well have followed from the adage that all the world’s a stage that it was all those spotlights that caused him to sweat so even in the dead of winter), but an act just the same. The calmness that she saw in him comforted her, cold comfort, perhaps, befitting the cold night.

Let us now note that they slept in the same bed that very night. (Everything skipped will soon enough be clear or clearly irrelevant.) They slept on one pillow, their faces almost touching. Margie fell asleep first, her face inches away from his in a way that may have been taken as an invitation—and on some level may have been. Margie had a habit of sort of muttering and moving in her sleep—this night she seemed to be laughing. Tic closed the gap between their faces to about half its former size. Margie moved her head off the pillow and then let it fall back to an even lesser distance. This sequence repeated a few more times. They wound up sleeping through the night with their faces touching (Tic’s lips just below her cheek for most of the night). However, the puckering movement of the lips that is required by most definitions of kissing was never satisfied.

He could not have imagined that she would have objected had he reached over and tried to press his lips against hers—his lips, through some of the night, were already listlessly rested on the area where her chest flattened out before coming out collar, neck. But at the same time he was held back by something which was not entirely his own: something more than the fact that she seemed to be asleep. His heart beat out pounding rhythms like hooded death knocking at your door. He swore he was never closer to sleep than he was to heart attack through the night. What the hell was going on? He thought to himself. What kind of a girl just sleeps in a bed with a guy? Is she a little touched in the head? What are you a stuffy lady of affluence, why would you be questioning something like this? Blow it out your ass…

This scene played out in its entirety two more times. Both would have been happy to have enjoyed more traditional corporeal conquests with the other on any of those nights. However, both decided to not ruin what they took to be the designs of the other. The second night (weeks later) of this inexplicably replicated scheme of muted seduction he attempted to feel her through his thumping chest. Not in the sense that would have meant breaking the sensual silence of their fevered forbearance but in the way that he had come to think that women should be held in the mind of the sexual beholder. That it didn’t seem to work was not all that surprising to him since he had only recently resolved that thinking of other women during sex was just stupid and set out in search of the proper erotic ordering of a mind. But the effort ceased his other thoughts as well.

Margie would have not have been surprised to hear that those three nights of simply sleeping in Tic’s embrace without the exchange of so much as a kiss were the result of his uncertainty in her reception of anything more—they weren’t entirely. But it would have taken her a few moments of some measure of clarity—like that which followed the first trip to the bathroom in the morning (there was a reason that Margie was so open about such matters: pleasure superseded protocol; if it took a certain amount of fiber for existence and essence to line up it was worth it and no less meaningful for the efforts taken) —to realize she wasn’t surprised. Very likely she would have initially concluded that everything she had assumed of him as his chest pressed against hers through those nights was wrong. She maybe would have even resolved in haste to not see him again. But none of this came to pass as she was never given to understand that the thoughts that informed the other side of this complicity were anything different from her own but, perhaps, for the difference in the way that men and women framed their thoughts or how they read them to themselves. And whether they were or not: her thoughts were not exactly about him.

Margie slept—or at least feigned sleep—through those nights with a feeling that everything was going backwards, that she was at an end without ever noticing a beginning, that once she stopped knocking she looked up to find she was, and had always been, inside. She did not see any visions of her and Tic together 20 years hence. Instead she saw herself surrounded by something colorless stretching as far she could see and lit by something which was not in view. She rolled around and laughed to herself and felt as if she belonged there, alone. Because even though she was alone she felt as if she was surrounded by every feeling of home she had ever known. Not exactly the home that she had grown up in – though her parents did still live in the same place with the same picture of a plumed peacock in the entryway – but somewhere else. And even though all she saw nothing she felt that she was everywhere and entirely whole, completed by something which caused everything around her to move like small waves.

If it could be said about any woman, Margie never worried about what guys thought of her. True enough she had little reason to worry as most seemed hopelessly devoted to her. This led her to maintain friendships with only those men that she knew had the constitution to withstand her not liking them back. She just did not really care about men enough to entertain the compromised, pretextual logic that there is nothing (including relationships) more important than friendship, but there is no better basis for a relationship than a friendship. She did not like the way men (and, at times, women) would use this logic to cast you as a shrew if you didn’t want to be friends with someone knowing full well they were thinking (and plotting) along these distorted lines.

She saw men as essentially flawed and pitiable creatures. If—as they seemed to think—they lacked the liabilities that attended the faintest recognition of an emotional infrastructure then why shouldn’t they all live the Spartan lifestyles they sought? Their inability to recognize their true natures when presented with their inability to realize the lives that befitted the strength that they arrogated to themselves was just stupid to her mind. There is a difference between aspiration and delusion, she reasoned. That was enough but the constant declarative statements really meant to declare no more than the ability to make declarations was almost intolerable.

Still, she learned – relatively early – that for all their shortcomings men could be lots of fun, and more often than not were equipped with a capacity for abandon that would strip this “fun” of anything indicative of the past nor promissory for the future. These sorts of thoughts demonstrate that what Margie wanted from most men required something in the way of strategy but that shouldn’t be misread as any kind of deceit. She liked sex but disliked the many taboos and especially the many presumed meanings that attended it. Margie believed that there was nothing wrong with giving a stranger something that they did not even know they wanted. Ignorance was bliss, she reasoned. Try telling a beggar that a taste of sugar is worse than none at all. Margie gave them more than a taste; what she withheld she rarely felt any misgivings about. All this is to say she liked catching men off guard and then being off before they gathered themselves: like a sexual ghost.

Margie was afforded the opportunity for her sexual and sociological explorations, in some part, by the fact that she was exceptionally attractive. She had dark hair that she wore at a length just long enough for a ponytail but just short enough that these ponytails would often come apart moments after their construction. This gave her a vaguely flustered look which she would have resented had she realized; but she did not realize because she was usually flustered. The constellation made of her lips and eyebrows seemed to have a geometrical logic to it that you could not name, like a crop circle. Her eyebrows curved at precisely the same pitch throughout such that had they been joined they would seem at least 1/3 of a perfect, rueful circle. Her lips had an almost comic exaggeration about them; in fact, it might have been the fact that the center of her upper lip seemed to always smile that gave her a less threatening air than she deserved. Margie was relatively petite, though anyone who has ever known her could attest that that impression was put to rout in onlookers as soon as they spoke to her. She was cheeky almost without even knowing it. She never meant to be emasculating and she did not want to attract the sort of men who would be impervious to anything like that but still she caused in many men a feeling that they were the product of a society where gender roles were anything but clear—a feeling which many were only able to quiet by re-application of their favorite pomade or re-affirmation of their self-worth as enumerated from nose to toes with extra points coming from a look which suggested, without being, overly rugged. She did not do this by acting in a masculine way. She did it with a rhetorical style that caught almost everybody off guard. This style combined a sort of hangdog reservation and whimsy with alacrity and a rapier wit the contradiction of which usually clashed somewhere behind the recipient’s eyes. The result was something like the marriage of Archie Bunker and Diane Keaton.

Tic was not much of a lothario himself. In the back of his mind he had always suspected that there was an active conspiracy to make him think he was less attractive than he was. There was not: he was not a handsome man, not classically anyway. What success he did find with women was not because of his looks, nor, necessarily, in spite of them. He looked mysterious. This may have helped define the set of women with whom he was given occasion to convince of his worth as a lover. However, those that came to him did so first and foremost because he was an exceptional conversationalist if an abiding dilettante: at least once he had made the claim, aloud and even in company with presumptive behavior disorders, that the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of early quantum physics proved that there was no God. And while he had sort of sworn to himself that he would not recycle jokes, he made no such promise about sexual overtures. Still, the line that he had repeated to the three women that he had met prior to Margie he meant in some way or another. If the wording changed some the sentiment did not: fate, as it’s been revealed in some part to me, demands that we be together. This was never said in a way that seemed too contrived, or worse, pathological. He said it as if embarrassed that he was as allegiant to the vision he’d had as he was. It was never an out and out lie. It was only after the last time that he realized that he’d meant it for reasons that were entirely superficial but no less profound. He thought, as everyone does from time to time, that he could tell something about people from their faces which exceeded shallowness; as if the magma of their interiors had finally cooled into the shape of their faces, as if everything was no more than a surface, as if (as he once heard someone say) everything was a “visible core”. Even coming from a starry-eyed sort, this ought to have strained credibility. Coming from someone who once wrote a paper that certain unspecific chords (he had no musical training) had divine resonance this ought to have been preposterous. And coming from someone who snapped at a friend for calling himself an existentialist nihilist but who himself had told people that he was nearing Nirvana it ought to have been responded to with disdain.

Tic was intelligent and his dabbling was not affectation. He had a genuine hunger for knowledge of the type that could be applied to life lived. But he never lost a winsome quality which sort of delighted in thinking thoughts like maybe he was actually a reluctant prophet or the like. Did I just break that light bulb with my mind? he had asked himself before. And it was this brand of thought which made him think that he was fated to be with certain women because of certain (arguably superficial) qualities. However, when he first met Margie he had no such thought. Instead he felt a profound sadness. Why? That he would never be with someone like her. That likely sounds like something which commonly precedes the thoughts of fate. To say something is fated is to have more than a little confidence in its potential. Certainty might creep behind this sadness like an echo but they do not tend to occupy the same space or time. He, for about 4 hours at the time, had been attempting to rid himself of any such certainty. But before any farfetched longing could mature in him, in spite of his mind, into burgeoning potential, she approached him.

Tic’s thought followed an aesthetics class discussing Greek tragedy. There, as in most classes, he heard bits and pieces: “sensual acceptance of, and rejoicing in, the terrors of reality…his eye must be ‘sunlike’ as befits his origin…it’s only others which temper the crushing awe...natural geniuses and satyrs.” The sense he made of it was this: learn to love the fact that life is suffering. This was at odds with most of his instincts to try to be happy. However, whether misunderstood or not, it had a novelty which appealed to his sort of middling intellectual appetite. And so he tried. He tried to decouple himself from the natural charm he saw in the world. He told himself that it was only shadows that lent enchantment to emptiness. He saw the self denial that he sort of liked as a guide. He tried to reach through the slabs of his residual innocence to see himself dying alone. [This – Tic’s attempt to embrace death, you might say – would not have been such a huge departure from the typical demands made by the newest additions to his intellectual prowess. The dilettante must carry himself lightly; having too firm a grip on anything thought to be invariably true could prove a hindrance. Tic knew this and swimming through his mind you’d find very little that had sunk to the bottom – very little, in fact, which was weighty enough to not float. However, if there was one thing which Tic had not always found himself free enough to think about, it was death.

And so when he saw her she seemed to be playing an illustrative part in the pictures of his certain sadness. So it was that he did not even really consider saying anything to her because she seemed no more than a chimera of his melancholy, an avatar of his gloom (or at least something from which he could practice extricating himself); what could he say? To inspire in someone what seemed at once on the order of dread of one’s own mortality and yet without reluctance hinted in so much as an eyelid was for Margie almost a dream come true.

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+ news +

The phobiafighter,
Time talks gay parents,
and the super trannies! for the week.

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Hoppity little bunnies have giant fucking eyes. People love bunnies. In great part due to the sheer size of the eyes because as many a tweaked out gay boy on poppers and meth (or not) will be shouting from the rafters, “The bigger the better.” And to similar effect as your trusty strap-on, duck-billed fist, or plugs, one glimpse of the limpid, empty pools of a bunny’s eyes (still attached to the rest of the body, mind you) can fill a willing party right up with warm fuzzy feelings. Hypothetically, a direct correlation can be formed between bunny eye dimensions and our love for them. The larger and more vapid they are, the higher potential for fawning over the fuzzy squishiness of the snuggle bunny.

A human being, on average to their body mass, has proportionally smaller ocular organs than said bunnies. Therefore, it is safe to assume that humans are less fawned upon. As they should be. Because if some humans had larger eyes, perhaps they would see a little more. Or even if they just opened up their eyes and registered a tad bit more, they would be less prone to do stupid shit. For shame.
Down in West Palm Beach, a 17-year-old teenage boy is being accused of attacking a 39-year-old woman. The boy states that the woman got into the car with him and his friend and proceeded to seal the deal with, well, a tight-lipped seal on his manhood. Little did he know that when he removed her bikini he would find a familiar appendage. He says the woman attempted to rape him. On the flipside, the tranny contends that the boy knew full well that she was transgendered yet continued to aggressively paw her and slip in the usual hand-on-the-back-of-the-head trick. Either way, he proceeded to remove her teeth with a lifeguard stand. Latent teenage homophobe vs. potential stat rape tranny in a two-piece. If only they got to the bottom of it sooner.

A lesbian, using the womens’ facilities, was removed from the Caliente Cab Co. Mexican Restaurant in Manhattan. After reports that a man was using the john, a bouncer walked in to pound on the stall door. She offered to show ID but to no avail. The woman is being represented now by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. She is not transgendered. Dude just looks like a lady. Wait. Lady looks like a dude. Befuddlement aside, this happened right after the pride march. Stifled laughter and long embittered legal battle may now commence.

In other blind-sighted news, July First is the official date for many state laws to take effect. Some of note:

Colorado bans abstinence-only sex education in all schools (except for one district), requiring schools to teach sex education based on scientific research and to include information on contraception. Pray tell, why does one specific district get to put the kibosh on all the sex?

Virginia requires convicted sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses with the state.

Florida starts a one-year pilot program to test randomly for steroid use among high school athletes participating in football, baseball and weightlifting.

And my favorite:

In Mississippi, an abortion provider must perform a sonogram and give a pregnant woman the chance to listen to the heartbeat. Meanwhile, Manhattan Mini Storage has placed a print ad that states: “Your closet space is shrinking as fast as your right to choose.” Running alongside is a picture of a wire coat hanger.

The world is a confusing place. So much to see. So much to take in. So much craziness to get wrapped up in. So, be it an unforgettable spring break surprise, a faint hint of an Adam’s apple, or a fetus cursing you to hell, keep your eyes peeled for the signs. Like the bunny. It will keep you out of trouble. And if not, at least they’ll think you’re cute and lovable. And then eat you anyway.

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My last post was kind of all over the place. Some of the things I talked about just didn't come out the way I wanted them to. I think this trip home to the States is really kind of throwing me off; there are a lot of things that I'm doing or saying or seeing that I'm not even conscious of but are actually making a big impact on my time here. I think that the best way to express what I want to say is by sharing a list of comparative Mex/U.S. observations:

  • The United States has a VERY specific way of dealing with gender
  • Fear of PDA is a foreign idea in Mexico
  • Relatively speaking, the U.S. has come a long way.
  • We have a very vibrant love-hate relationship with femininity
  • Homosexuality and related behaviors are much less polarized in the United States
  • Eating disorders are in full swing and are encouraged by U.S. culture but I find they have become less talked about
  • Newscasters here are very conservative when it comes to language and clothing choice
  • Drinking from the tap rocks
  • I don't know what my comfort level is in terms of variations in points of view on gender issues in a relationship
  • There are more female trailer truck drivers, police officers, and obstetricians in the U.S. than there are in Mexico
  • With the money that the women I know, myself included, spend on beauty products, you could feed the entire subsidized housing community on the outskirts of Zacatecas, Mexico
  • We do not know how to make tacos
  • Transsexuals are more capable of living a conflict-free lifestyle in Mexico because the root of conflict isn't even on the radar yet
  • Machismo is not just a Latin America thing
  • The word "family" has very different connotations in each culture
  • The stereotype that all young, Mexican men are itching to mow your lawn or wash your car is alive and well
  • The root of the stereotype that people that live in the United States are elitist and discriminatory is missed by no foreign visitor
  • Many people, more on the U.S. side of the border, see me as ignorant to various gender issues
  • Many others see me as too radical on various gender issues
  • Family habits die hard in any culture
  • The word feminism means very different things in both countries but at the same time seems to scare many people in both
  • We talk about things much more
  • Here, I take for granted the advantages I receive for being in a heterosexual relationship at least one time a day, if not 87; there, I don't have to. They're not advantages- they're just how things are
  • Academic elitism is a universal trend
  • …so is men wanting to always be "bigger"; so is women wanting to be "smaller"
  • "Bigger" men are preferred by people on all sides of the sexuality scale; so are "smaller" women
  • The difference between the popular thought of this young generation and that of their grandparents is probably the most drastic between any other in history in all countries
  • I think some people that study gender can be narrow minded on the topic
  • We are really uptight sometimes
  • Reproductive health education is going really well for us
  • Certain people just don't get it
  • Political correctness is based purely on experiential circumstances
  • People everywhere love labels
  • One the whole, no matter where you are, deliberating in thought is a sign of maturity, not insecurity

In the end…it's all relative, isn't it?

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