Musings on Life for the Queerly Inclined

Archive for August, 2012

Why We Can’t Have All of the Cookies

Today we’re talking about allyship.  Wait.  That’s not totally it—we’re actually talking about the easiest ways to be a huge tool.  This is in fact a list of horrifyingly common pitfalls to avoid.  TW: mentions sexual assault and misgendering

“Let Me Tell You What a Good Ally I Am!”

If a corner stone of your allyship involves trying to show off what a good ally you are, you’re doing it wrong.  Anything that vaguely resembles “I have a friend who is ___, therefore I’m super accepting” is a bad idea.  We do not deserve cookies and gold stars just for being decent human beings and not being overtly hateful.

  • My friend so-and-so, who’s Latina, says blah, blah, blah.
  • So-and-so’s brother Jason—well, she used to be Jason when she was a boy…now she’s Jackie…
  • My gay best friend and I…
  • I’ve known so-and-so since before zie had [insert medical history here].
  • Then she dropped out of school because no one would talk to her, and she came back in the fall for high school, all of her hair was cut off and she was totally weird, and now I guess she’s on crack.

Any of these sound familiar?  I know I’ve heard them.  Before speaking, ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. Would the person I’m speaking of want me to share this information?
  2. Does the person to whom I’m speaking need to know this?

If the answer to either is no, congratulations, this would be a great time to shut up.  Even if you think the people you’re speaking to and about will never meet, there’s still no excuse.  Stick to info that’s relevant to the conversation and that you know may be shared.

I’ve had conversations in which I’ve straight up said to people “Why are you telling me this?  This is absolutely none of my business.”  Usually, they were telling me these incredibly personal stories about people I’d never met (or could’ve met–they don’t know that) in an effort to show how diverse their friend group was, how many types of people they accepted, etc.  No.  Just stop.  You do not get the Non-Bigot of the Year award.  Instead, you get some serious stank eye for outing and/or tokenizing your friend, as well as a demerit for spreading about their personal business.

Throwing Your Privilege in Other People’s Faces

Privileged folks: we need to stop inserting our voices and opinions where they do not belong.  Like now already.  If there is a conversation taking place between members of marginalized group about oppression, you do not look extra sensitive by jumping in and adding your two cents.  In fact, you look like a huge douchebag.  Because, in that situation, you are.  Unless specifically asked, you do not need to add a white perspective, a cisgender perspective, a neuro-typical perspective.  Privileged perspectives are ubiquitous—I can guarantee no one has forgotten about them.  By (unwelcomely) entering a discussion about misogyny with “From a man’s perspective…” you are not enlightening anyone; you are silencing the group.  If you are asked to give an opinion, cool.  If not, stay quiet and listen to what it’s like not hearing your views presented front and center.

Pansexuals, Pansexuals Everywhere! We’re Taking Over!

Texas State Rep. Mary Gonzalez, a recently elected Democrat from El Paso, has just come out as pansexual.  HELLO TO THE FIRST OPENLY PAN ELECTED OFFICIAL IN THE USA!!!

HuffPo states that Gonzalez came out as bisexual when she was 21 years old, but later felt that this label didn’t fit:

“As I started to recognize the gender spectrum and dated along the gender spectrum, I was searching for words that connected to that reality, for words that embraced the spectrum. At the time I didn’t feel as if the term bisexual was encompassing of a gender spectrum that I was dating and attracted to.”

Feministing adds that Rep. Gonzalez initially was out as queer while campaigning for her State Rep seat, but the poor old news media didn’t know what to do with that information, so she stuck with the term gay (to which the media responded by calling her lesbian).

“During the campaign if I had identified as pansexual, I would have overwhelmed everyone,” she said.  “Now that I’m out of the campaign, I’m completely much more able to define it.”

HOLY SHIT.  Can we all just stop for a minute and realize that a politician just spoke openly and articulately about pansexuality?  She’s not dumbing it down and giving a news bite definition that rests at the lowest common denominator of understanding.  She’s actually discussing dating and/or being attracted to women, men, genderqueer people, and trans* people like they’re normal, acceptable parts of life…cuz, ya know, they are.  (Surprise!)  Also, mad props to her for raising the profile of queer Latinas and uncompromisingly being herself.  In case anyone is missing how big a deal this is, here’s a blow-by-blow of my response.

Me: Sees article on Facebook.  Headline = “Mary Gonzalez will be the first out pansexual legislator in the US”

Me in my head:  Oh my god.  Oh.  My.  God.  Oh my god oh my god oh my god.  I have to tell Pandaqueer!

(FYI Pandaqueer = one of the loves of my life, with whom I’ve had many a great gendery spiel.)

PQ: WHAT?!  PANSEXUAL REPRESENT?!

Me: HELL YEAH MUTHAFUCKAS!!!

Me: I AM HANDLING THIS MATURELY

PQ: YES.  OH MY GOD IT’S EXCITING.  I NEED TO MAKE US MATCHING PANSEXUAL FRIENDSHIP BRACELETS.

Me: YES AND WE WILL SEND HER ONE, ALONG WITH A LETTER PROFESSING MY UNDYING LOVE AND ADMIRATION.

PQ: MINE TOO PLEASE.

And then I devolved into an unintelligible mess because I had too many blog post ideas all at once.

In case this is not explanation enough, I will try to be serious for a moment.  I’ve often joked with my friends that I never expect to see anyone I identify with (especially in regard to views on gender/sexual orientation/politics) on TV or in the mainstream media and that if I do, I’ll assume something’s gravely wrong.  Let’s suspend reality for a sec and imagine me going into politics.  I’ve never been able to envision myself running for office and being totally open about my sexual orientation because, of course, that would necessitate explaining non-binary genders and assigned sexes and gender fluidity.  We all know that addressing those amid conversations of “American family values” would get me slapped with the “off-the-charts liberal nut job” sticker (which, let’s be real, is incredibly accurate).  Those terms would also be deemed too complicated for the public to understand and I would be pressured to “simplify” my identity and fit into a box that people are already familiar with, but to which I would have no connection.  Cue my endless frustration.

Bottom line: the notion that a political figure would actually use the word pansexual any time this decade–let alone 4 days ago–is stunning to me.  I will certainly write her that letter of love and admiration.

Summer Nights are for Women; Steel is for Men

Those of you who know me in real life know how much I love deodorant.  Okay, okay, I don’t have some weird obsession with anti-perspirants; I’m just fascinated by the names.  First of all, they’re completely ridiculous.  What do “summer nights” and “playa” smell like exactly?  Second, the names are incredibly gendered, or at least the packaging would suggest as much.  Take a stroll through CVS’s deo aisle and you’ll see a selection of small pastel containers bearing names like “warm rain,” “summer stroll,” and “allure.”  Across the aisle will be larger, squarer containers in black, forest green, and fiery red: “swagger,” “phoenix,” “steel,” “pulse,” and “manliest man who ever manned.”  (I may have made that last one up, but I’m sure you’ll agree that it fits right in.)  Apparently “convict,” “recovery,” and “instinct” are other branded scents.

On a recent shopping excursion, I discovered that “romance” smells disgusting to me and “escape” is great.  Hold on while I go ponder my life…

 

This week I discovered a new favorite soap: “falling rain.”  Let’s be clear now–this does not evoke the rain rushing through the cracks in your driveway.  It’s not the muddied water pooling in the sandbox and obscuring the toy truck than Janine left behind at recess.  It’s falling.  Interestingly enough, this soap smells suspiciously like peppermint.  Who has peppermint rain?  Please come forward.

So what’s the deal with deodorant marketing?  In case you hadn’t noticed, deodorants (and soaps, shampoos, and other toiletries) marketed toward women cost more.  Not only that, they come in smaller packages, so they’re ultimately much more expensive.  This problem is exacerbated by the number of individual products that are marketed to women, where combo products (all-in-one shampoo/conditioner/body wash) are advertised for men.  Women are paid less (hello, people, the pay gap is still alive and well!) and conditioned to pay more for our products.

So what is it we’re paying for?  What makes the difference?  Turquoise packaging and cosmetics industry employees who sit in far away offices devising names like falling rain.

“I totally support femmes–they’re so hot”: Terrible Opening Line

Dear universe and would-be allies:


Source: the lovely femmesandfamily, whose blog I recommend you check out.

Femmephobia, a topic that is more often than not on my mind in some form, was brought up anew in a conversation with a friend a couple nights ago.  We talked about wanting to wear overtly feminine clothes some of the time and more masculine ones at other times. Should be easy, right?  But it’s not.

Getting Dressed: A How-To Guide for Femmes and Anyone Who Dips into Femininity Occasionally

  1. Find fly outfit (trying on five is normal–we can’t always get it right the first time)
  2. Put it on
  3. Contemplate accessories (flower? pocket watch? jewelry? picket sign? rock?)**
  4. Worry about people hassling you and/or making asshole comments about your appearance
  5. Tell yourself that you’re over-thinking things and that no one is going to give you a hard time about how you look
  6. Go out into the world, looking fly and feeling good
  7. Someone will invariably make an asshole comment about how you’re presenting yourself

I (and so many other friends I’ve spoken with) have noticed a trend in sectors of the queer community: the idealizing of the thin, white, androgynous hipster look.  If this is your look and you wanna rock it, that’s great for you.  But when the attention paid to people who embody this look far eclipses the focus on all other gender presentations, there’s a big problem.

What’s going on here?

  • Patriarchal society prizes men and masculinity.  Looking through all sorts of intersecting oppressions, the ideal person (according to US society) is a white, cisgender, able, upwardly-mobile, masculine man.
  • In this patriarchal society, women are required to be feminine and then punished for doing so.  Femininity is seen as compulsory (you must look/behave “like a lady”) and also weak and deserving of ridicule (“girly” stuff is routinely dismissed as useless, superfluous, a joke).
  • We internalize misogyny; everyone is taught that femininity is not strong or powerful.
  • Results: men are socialized to be masculine and hate on femininity (“Why do women spend so much time on their hair/makeup?  What a waste of time!” and “A feminine man–shock, horror!  I must distance myself from him!”).  Women who don’t wanna fit into the socialized femininity are told that they can have an out by also hating on it (“I don’t get along with women–they’re so vain and catty.  All my friends are guys.”).  Everyone gets cool points for hating on femininity.  Wow, how fucked up is that?

What about queer communities?

  • Stereotypes: queer women are masculine, queer men are feminine.  That totally describes everyone, right??  Ha no.
  • Result: anyone who doesn’t fit this description is usually unseen/ignored.  People who do fit it are stereotyped as the big dyke or the gay bff.

The Really Nasty Part that Started this Whole Post:

Rejecting femininity is seen as a cool and radical thing to do.  Femme-ness is consequently labeled conformist and unimportant.  According to this logic, femmes are eye candy, but we don’t really have anything interesting to say.  In case there was any doubt about this, let me clarify: just because I wear makeup and heels does not mean I’m brainless, unaware of my actions, and unwittingly conforming to patriarchal expectations.  I have not failed to deconstruct my internalized whatever-the-fuck.  I am not waiting for you, oh great masculine-of-center queer person to save me by showing me the error of my ways.

If you describe yourself as a radical queer activist, but all you have to say about femmes is that we look hot, while simultaneously ignoring our contributions to discussions in favor of listening to masculine-of-center folks (who may well be saying the same damn things we said ten minutes ago), do not be surprised by the wall of skepticism that I will build between us.

If femmes/sometimes-feminine folks are talking about how it’s an achievement to wear what we want without worrying about it, do not look at us with blank stares, as though we’ve said the most obvious thing in the world.  Do not roll your eyes when we affirm for one another that it is in fact okay to say “fuck you” to people’s expectations and present our genders differently every day.  If you do, chances are you’re one of the people who makes us uncomfortable and fuels our preemptive worries to begin with.  Do not be step #7 when we get dressed.

**Note on the accessories list: “Why did you include a rock?”  I know people who carry rocks in their purses.  This is not an issue of advocating violence; it is an issue of protecting oneself when you know that you’re at risk of being attacked as you walk down the street.

Requests, requests!

Wow–y’all are actually requesting that I write about certain topics.  This makes me feel awesome because apparently you’re following along and liking what I have to say.  It also puts some pressure on because I wanna do justice to the issues you’ve suggested (and they’re great ones).  I realize that I’ve neglected this blog recently and I’m considering updating on a self-imposed schedule.  We’ll see.  What do I have to show for my time away?  I have more friends and *drum roll* a fall internship.  Yay!  I’ll be doing theatre and gendery things, no less.  Very exciting stuff.

Anyway, here’s a teaser of what topics will be coming up (based on your requests).

  • Femmephobia (Ooooooh will I write about that)
  • Asexuality
  • Trans* athletes and hormones in sports (Not an expert–working on this)
  • More sports stuff (Really?  Wow.  As it happens, I do have one or two thoughts about the Olympics)
  • (Note on the link above: the first part isn’t mine; I wrote only the section after the second photo)

More to come later today!  If you wanna see another topic discussed here, leave a comment here or shoot me an email/FB message/text if you know me like that.

P.S.  Those of you who are using my blog to procrastinate from work–you know who you are–get back to work!  (But check back in an hour to read more brilliance…)

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