Musings on Life for the Queerly Inclined

Posts tagged ‘sexual orientation’

Being Visibly Queer: When Every Day is Coming Out Day

Okay, y’all: I’m gonna do something new.  I’ve never used National Coming Out Day as a vehicle for coming out before.  I tend to be pretty out in my life all the time, so while I appreciate this day (which happens to be today) for raising awareness of and prompting conversations about gender and sexual minorities, I haven’t personally observed it differently from any other day.  I had no plans to do anything special to mark today.  Then a conversation with Pandaqueer changed my mind.

If anyone is unclear about who Pandaqueer is, just know that he’s fabulous.  We discussed recent conversations he’d had about femmephobia as it is incorporated into notions of “visible queerness.”  Not sure what I’m talking about?  When searching for a queer community or queer friends, to whom do you look?  What signs tip you off?  What does it mean when you describe someone as “looking so gay”?

If your visions of queer people are exclusively

  • thin, white, feminine men
  • non-binary folks whose genders you can’t “figure out”
  • androgynous and masculine women with “alternative lifestyle haircuts”

THEN YOU NEED TO FUCKING CHECK YOURSELF.  Wake up and open your eyes.

Who gives me a hard time about coming out?

I feel way more pressure to come out and to defend my gender and sexual orientation around queer people than around straight ones.  Non-homophobic straight peeps might not immediately read me as queer, but if/when I tell them, they usually just accept it without interrogating me.  This is probably due in part to their unfamiliarity with the nuances of gender presentation and identity labels within LGBTQ+ communities.  That figures.  At least I don’t need to defend myself at length (we’re not going into homophobic douchebags here).

Queer people are a totally different story.  Now, LGBTQ+ communities are many and varied, so these problems don’t occur in the same way across the board.  I’m speaking directly from my experiences in queer communities I’ve lived in and visited.

I’m speaking about queer communities that prioritize masculinity over femininity–that value studs, butches, androgynous folks, and masculine trans* people, over femmes.  I mean queer organizations in which masc-of-center folks are viewed as the best leaders, the most transgressive, powerful, and brave, the ones who really put themselves out there.  These are the groups in which I have to prove my queerness again and again.

  • If I talk to you for an hour about queer theory, will you take me seriously?
  • If my relationships look queer to you, will you understand that I’m not confused?
  • If I plan LGBTQ+ community events, will you get that I’m here to stay?
  • If I explain myself and my choices to you constantly, will you accept that I didn’t put on heels and lipgloss accidentally?
  • If I write enough of these blog posts, will you see that I’m not helpless or unaware of patriarchal oppression?
  • If I teach you the word femmephobia, will you recognize your own behavior?

Let me be clear: there are some amazing, transgressive, powerful, brave masc-of-center queer folks and they should be celebrated.  Gender non-conforming queer people (such as non-binary folks and masc-of-center women) face different challenges than those of us who are gender conforming (or perceived to be).  The problem is when the attention paid to them eclipses everyone else.  This happens particularly in the case of feminine-of-center and femme people.  (That I feel I have to justify writing about femmes and explain that I haven’t forgotten about masculine queer people is indicative of the problem.)

If you think “queer” and never think femme, that’s a problem.  Retrain your brain.  If you think “queer” and every image that appears in your brain looks the same (think race, gender presentation, age, ability, body type, class, nationality), check yourself.  Interrogate your assumptions.

Okay, Here We Go:

My name is Tamar and I am a pansexual, femme, cisgender woman.  I am not “hiding” in femme.  I’m here and I’m visible every day.  If you don’t see me, that your problem.

Phew–now that that’s out of the way, have a lovely video.

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.

National Lesbian Handbook Updated

Attention, everyone!  Florida’s Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll has released an amendment to the ubiquitous National Lesbian Handbook concerning the dress code for queer women.  What’s that you say–you’ve never heard of the rules for lesbian appearance?  How did you skip that class?  I’m talking about the core of ‘merican culture here!

Lt. Gov. Carroll is facing scrutiny after a former staff member announced that she’d walked in on Carroll and Beatriz Ramos (an aide) in a “compromising position” in Carroll’s office.  According to Carroll, “Black women that look like me don’t engage in relationships like that.”

Lesbian women, take note: you are absolutely not allowed to look like the above photo.  Just so you know.

Several big issues:

1. What does “relationships like that” mean anyway?  Is she talking about extramarital affairs or same-sex ones?  Bueller?

2. Carroll has interpreted this as an attack on her entire family, stating, “My husband doesn’t want to hear that.  He knows the type of woman I am…my kids know the type of woman I am.”  Her phrasing creates a gulf between two distinct types of women, clearly ostracizing the ones who might engage in any same-sex romance or sex.

3. In refuting these rumors, Carroll insinuated something–but what?–about her staff member’s relationship status: “[she is] the one that’s been single for a long time.”  Did Carroll really just throw the queer spotlight on her colleague just because that woman isn’t married?  Like…for real?

4. Beyond gender policing, what are the real implications of Carroll’s remarks about black women and lesbianism?

  • Images of LGBTQ+ history and culture have often misrepresented these communities as primarily (or even exclusively) white.  Here again, Carroll implies that black women must be straight.  [Edited]
  • Queer women are routinely stereotyped as androgynous or masculine in our gender presentations.  No femininity here, right??  Furthermore, we can occupy only three jobs: security guard, police officer, and gym teacher.  Duh.  Everyone knows that.
  • At the intersection of these assumptions, black femme lesbians (and other queer women) are not only rendered invisible, Lt. Gov. Carroll says they simply don’t exist.
  • By holding herself up as the standard of acceptable (heterosexual) womanhood, Carroll is using femininity as a tool to alienate masculine-of-center women while simultaneously erasing feminine queer women.  Seriously?  I just can’t…

In response to Carroll’s bullshit homophobic and femmephobic comments, HuffPo gathered photos of queer women, all tweeted with the hashtag #ThisIsWhatALesbianLooksLike.  I think this was an awesome response and some lovely ladies sent in fierce and touching captions with their photos.  Check out the full article and slide show here.  Shout out to my fabulous femme friend Jessica, who’s classing it up as #76.

I would also like to call y’all’s attention to this article because it has the best title.  Like ever.  Not to mention, some excellent FB comment screenshots.

The moral of the story: check yourself before you spew ignorant fuckery like this, especially if you happen to be laughing through your remarks like they’re no big deal (see video accompanying HuffPo article).  Now hold on a sec while I sit back, relax, and wait for Lt. Gov. Carroll to put her foot further into her mouth as she tries to make her way out of this mess.

All quotes are from HuffPo.

Edit: Nadine Smith, founder and executive director of Equality Florida, has also written a terrific response.  Check it out.

Why You Can’t Take Me Out in Public

This past weekend was Andersonville Midsommarfest, one of Chicago’s 598206 annual summer street fests.  For those of you who don’t know, Andersonville is a historically Swedish area that now has a reputation for being the queer women’s neighborhood.  When my friend and I were there on Sunday afternoon, the sun was shining, the temperature was above 90, the music was blasting, and the beer was flowing.  What did this mean?

Okay, what else?  It means a brigade of HRC volunteers were out collecting money and signatures to support their ceaseless campaign for same-sex marriage.  Now don’t get me wrong–I think marriage equality is an admirable goal.  As long as marriage is the key to gaining tax breaks, healthcare, immigration aid, easier adoption, etc, I absolutely think it should be equally accessible.  Marriage also means a great deal to many people, so yes, I support same-sex marriage.  That sounds lovely, but it’s not my top priority.

My issue with the HRC is that it claims to represent and fight for the needs of all LGBT (where’s the Q?)** individuals and families, yet it’s really a one-issue party.  Everything the HRC does or addresses miraculously gets tied to marriage equality.  I was a member for several years, but finally gave up after receiving an email informing me that a right-wing politician who was campaigning for a governorship had ties to a white supremacist group that had publicly called for the murders of queer folks and people of color.  This was a problem because if he won and if (hypothetically speaking) a marriage equality bill were to come to his desk, he might veto it.  Excuse you…WHAT?  No.  That’s a problem because the guy is part of a hate group that wants to kill peeps.  That’s not a marriage issue; that’s a HOLY SHIT WHITE SUPREMACY issue.

Besides that very extreme incident, I’d rather throw my (limited) money and (bountiful) support behind an organization that reps a full community of queer folks, not just white, class-privileged, gender-conforming ones.

So…I walked into Midsommarfest and was immediately stopped by an HRC rep.  (Side note: why they gotta have so many hotties working for them?  C’mon why can’t the hotties be more critical thinkers?)  (Reminder to self: okay, okay, people just have different values when it comes to their political organizing.  That’s fine I guess.  Boo.)  There was a petition for me to sign and oh I could donate too.  I quickly and politely, but firmly, explained why I quit the HRC and that if their values aligned more with mine–addressing hate crimes, safety in schools, youth homelessness, inclusive and accessible healthcare; fewer black tie dinners–then they should talk to me again.

I found my friend and we continued walking through the fest.  While giving her a brief rundown of what had just happened, we were stopped by another HRC rep.  Another petition.

Me: When the HRC gives a shit about trans* people and people of color, come talk to me.  [Walking away]

HRC volunteer: [Calling after me] We’re getting there!

Me: [Calling back] Very slowly!

Me in my head: “We’re getting there?”  What does he think this is, 1970?

My friend, Elizabeth: I love you.

Later in the afternoon, we saw him again.

HRC volunteer: Can I talk to–oh, I saw you earlier.

Me: Yeah, you probably don’t wanna talk to me again.

HRC: I actually don’t know that much about the HRC.  I’m a straight guy and I’ve just been volunteering for the last two years.

Me in my head: Thank you for clarifying your straightness.  I might have misread you as a sneaky gay.  The horror!

HRC: I’ve been hearing some criticism of the HRC–now some of that has been directed at our last president–some people have said we’re elitist and not in touch with “the common man”…

Me: You hear correctly.  [Mini “marriage and rich white people aren’t the only issues” spiel]

HRC: Well, what I’m talking about today isn’t marriage.  It’s about employment.  Have you heard of ENDA?

Me in my head: I probably know more about ENDA than you do.

Me: Mmmhmm.

HRC: Ya know, there’s actually more state-by-state discrimination against transgender people than against gays and lesbians.

Me in my head:  

He assured me that there were some trans* people working for the HRC– “I learned that there aren’t just men and women, there are people in between and all kinds of other ways”–and that he in fact knew a couple.  He proceeded to tell me about his girlfriend’s friend’s birth name, her current name, and her medical history.

Me in my head: Please stop talking.  I’m happy for you and I genuinely would like to talk with you about what you’re hearing about non-binary genders and how different people experience their transitions, but right now you’re outing your acquaintance.  I’m sure she’s beautiful and yes, I’m she sure rocks that dress, but I DON’T NEED TO KNOW THESE THINGS.  This is not my business and you are outing her in your effort to demonstrate your own trans* friendliness.

The conversation kinda ended there, as he needed to get back to talking to people who wouldn’t problematize every word and might even donate some cash.  Before we parted, he reiterated his hope that things at the HRC would get better (ie more inclusive) with time and that their new president, Chad Griffin, might push for that.  We shall see…

In other news, I got to catch up with the lovely Elizabeth and share one of these:

Oh and I won a beer glass (I would) and a bottle of water (really?) at the Proud to Run tent.  Good times.

**In this case, LGBT has been interpreted as big G, small L, tiny B, no T.  Forget radical queer, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people.

BREAKING NEWS: Queer Ladies Love Maddow

Autostraddle recently released its annual line-up of the 100 “Hottest Queerest Women in All the Land.”  For those of you who don’t spend your time fawning over queer culture websites (who are you?!), Autostraddle is a popular site for “news, entertainment, opinion, and girl-on-girl culture.”  What does this actually mean?  It means all the women (and others) of the queer (and other) persuasions just freaked out about how much we all loooooooooooove Tegan and Sara and OHMYGODRACHELMADDOOOOOOW!!

As usual, this year’s list is full of myriad talented, accomplished, and very attractive individuals.  But flipping through the pages, it’s impossible not to notice that most of them look pretty similar.  There is certainly some diversity of gender presentations–I’m always happy to see that–but the vast majority of these women are white.  Moreover, they’re predominantly young, slim, and white.  I counted fewer than 20 women of color on the list, as well as the cast of The Peculiar Kind, grouped together as #64.  None of them are in the top 10.

How do I know the exact number of women of color on this list?  I don’t.  It’s obviously not possible to decipher a person’s racial and/or ethnic identities just by looking at them or their name, but it’s apparent that the list is dominated by light skinned women, most of whom are repping similar sizes and body types.  So really, what this list tells me is that Autostraddle has rounded up yet another group of people who embody queerness as something that belongs primarily to young-ish, thin-ish, white people.  This misrepresentation happens all over the place.  Queerness is generally marginalized in mainstream everything (shocking to hear, I know), but as long as the few queer individuals that do appear show only a sliver of the queer community (the white, cisgender, and usually class-privileged sliver), then we’re continuing to divide and marginalize within our supposed community.  And that shit needs to stop.

EDIT: Apparently some clarification is needed.  The problem is not a lack of out LGBTQ people of color.  The problem in this case is that there’s a wide array of women of color who are routinely overlooked in favor of white women, who get the bulk of the recognition and publicity.  We cannot pretend it’s some sort of accident that hot people lists–and other images of which bodies our society/media consider beautiful–are overwhelmingly white, unless they’re specifically categorized as POC.  The same goes for ability, body type, size, and cis/trans* status.  This shit is old and needs to be changed like now already.

Psssst, Tamar! What is pansexuality?

I hear some of you wondering this across the vast reaches of the internet.  As much as I would like to release you to the wondrous world of the interwebs and tell you to get on Google and edumacate yourselves, in this case, that might lead somewhere unfortunate.  Periodically, I Google pansexual (as well as a slew of other gender and sexuality terms) just to see what would show up if I were trying to learn about these things for the first time.  The good news: in the last three and a half years (since I started doing this), definitions have expanded exponentially, thanks in large part to the blogosphere.  Now even Wikipedia is getting hip to the kids’ brand spankin’ new vocab words.  Still, I’m concerned about some of the “information” that’s out there.

According to Yahoo Answers’ “What is a pansexual?” page, “they are COOL PEOPLE.”  That’s lovely, dear, but not very helpful.  Other answers on this thread include “someone who’s unbelievably easy” and “sexually attracted to cookware.”  How I love the world today.

I cannot speak for all pan people–clearly, everyone experiences their sexuality differently–but here’s a good working definition.  Pansexuality means an attraction to people of many/all sexes and genders.  To clear up some common misconceptions: it doesn’t mean being attracted to/wanting to sleep with every single person all the time (how exhausting!), nor does it have anything to do with pedophilia or bestiality.  One phrase that I’ve seen tossed around a bunch is that pan people are “gender blind” and can’t see gender at all.  Excuse me, but…what??  To me, this sounds suspiciously like the people who claim to be “color blind” and unable to see race, when really they mean that they refuse to acknowledge it.  Am I attracted to people of many sexes and genders?  Yes.  Does this mean that I simply pass over these part of their identities and don’t notice them at all?  Absolutely not.  I just find different things to appreciate about various identities, so I’m not gonna discount anyone as a potential partner simply because of their sex or gender(s).  Everyone gets an equal chance in this regard.  If you can’t handle my obsessions with purple things and brie?  Well, that’s an entirely different story.

Who came up with these colors?

Greetings, friends and comrades.  Today I would like to discuss a very important and serious issue in my life: the pansexual flag.

Does it remind anyone else of Superman ice cream?  (FYI for  all you curious kiddies out there: I don’t recommend trying it–it tastes like blue and yellow.)

Given my penchant for being ever so slightly over the top, I would love to incorporate this symbol of one of my identities visually into my life and occasionally my wardrobe.  I would totally wear a pan flag to pride, if not for the fact that I would feel like a huge poof of cotton candy.  This is a problem.  It causes me great distress to know that I can never fully take this flag seriously.  Every time I start to feel a swell of pride, my mind and heart are derailed by memories of looking at this odd flavor in ice cream shops and wondering what it would look like when all the vibrant hues melted together down the side of my sugar cone.

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